Fashionable Health: Protecting and Healing Sun Damaged Skin

Here at “My Favorite Things,” we talk a lot about the amazing fashions available for the plus-sized woman, like sporty swimwear to get you ready for sun and sea and fun. However, we would be remiss in discussing sun and fun without also stressing caution, specifically sun safety.

The sun is an amazing ally. It keeps us warm, it helps us make vitamin D, but it can also seriously damage your skin

Sun Damage

Types of Sun Damage

Some types of sun damage are immediately visible. Take sunburn, for example. Once you get one, you know that some damage has occurred. What you may not know is that a seemingly harmless sun tan can is also an immediate sign of sun damage; because, in order for your skin to brown, the pigment cells have to be bombarded with harmful UV radiation.

Other types of sun damage are not immediately visible, but they can have long-term effects down the road. This includes the breakdown of the collagen cells, which can lead to wrinkles; damage to the pigment cells that can lead to sun spots and hyper pigmentation; and, of course, damage on the DNA level that can lead to skin cancer.

Even if you don’t burn, or if you have darker skin, you can still suffer the effects of sun damage. Sun damage is also cumulative, which means the damage from each season of sun worshipping builds on the last. The good news is that you can reduce, and even reverse sun damage and prevent more damage from occurring.

Reversal and Prevention

Reversal

The bottom line is that most people on this planet have some type of sun damage. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following to either reduce the visible signs of sun damage, repair the skin, or both:

  • Exfoliate Often. Exfoliation removes dead cells and residue from the surface of your skin. These deposits can make your skin look dull, rough, and dry. Exfoliation also stimulates blood flow, which brings nutrients to the skin and helps your cells grow and stay healthy.
  • For your body you should consider using an exfoliating sponge or loofa, with a moisturizing soap or cleanser. You can also find soaps and cleansers with exfoliating particles, or alpha hydroxyl acids included.
  • The skin on your face is more delicate and you should only use products specifically designed for faces.
  • Hydrate Regularly. The cumulative effects of sun, weather conditions, and indoor climate control can suck the moisture out of your skin. Sunlight also breaks down the collagen that helps draw moisture to your skin.
  • You should apply a body and facial moisturizer after bathing, and in the evenings. You may also need to apply moisturizer throughout the day, if your skin is extremely dry. Even if your skin does not appear to be dry, you should still hydrate. Regular hydration keeps can help protect the collagen you have, and products that contain hyaluronic acid may even stimulate collagen production. For the best results, use a product that is appropriate for your skin type (dry, oily, or combination). This may mean that you need to use different products for your face and body.
  • Lighten Dark Spots. Skin lighteners will not repair the skin, but they can make brown spots less visible. Some skin lightening products may also provide a little moisture as well. Since skin lighteners may not improve the health of your skin, and may even make your skin more sensitive, you should use them sparingly.
  • Consult a Professional. Like a skin lightener, laser skin therapy can remove dark spots but, unlike bleach, it can actually improve your skin’s health and even reverse sun damage, because they stimulate collagen production and new skin growth. Laser treatments can also remove wrinkles, and make skin appear younger.
  • Please note that laser treatments should be administered by professional clinicians, and usually in a medical setting, to ensure that you get the best possible results.

Prevention

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; and this is certainly true when it comes to skin and sun damage.

  • Avoid the Sun. The best way to prevent sun damage is to stay out of the sun as much as possible. You should especially avoid going outdoors when the sun is brightest, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. You should especially avoid the sun if you are taking medication, as certain drugs can make you more sensitive to sunlight.
  • Use UV Protection. When you are in the sun, you should wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater. However, you should be careful with products that have an SPF greater than 50 because they may not offer both UVA and UVB protection. Additionally, extremely high SPF products may not be any more effective than products in the 30 to 50 range, and could give you a false sense of security.

If you are spending a lot of time outdoors, swimming, or sweating a lot, make sure to reapply the sunscreen often.

In addition to covering your skin, you should also protect your eyes with UV-blocking sun glasses.

Taking good care of your skin will protect your health and ensure that you have a fresh and beautiful canvass on which to display your fashions.

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