As the summer season arrives, it’s essential to prioritise protecting your skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful rays. Did you know that up to 90% of visible skin ageing is the result of UV damage. Sun exposure can lead to various skin concerns, including skin laxity, crepeyness, sunburns, wrinkles, age spots, and an increased risk of skin cancer. By following a few simple yet effective practices, you can enjoy the summer sun while keeping your skin healthy and youthful. Read on for my essential tips to protect yourself from sun damage and premature skin ageing this summer.

What are the signs of sun damage?

The most noticeable sign that you have damaged your skin due to excessive sun exposure is burning. This discomfort typically arises within a few hours of exposure and may require several days for recovery. It is worth noting that even slight redness at the cellular level signifies sun-induced damage to the skin. Fortunately, our skin possesses an innate ability to repair minor sun damage continuously, provided the exposure is limited.

It is crucial to be aware that sun damage can result in long-term consequences for your skin. Indicators to watch out for include heightened dryness and flaking, a rougher skin texture, persistent redness, the appearance of brown pigmentation, and the growth of small lesions on the skin.

How can you protect your skin?

Reversing the signs of ageing can be achieved through various treatments, but prevention is better than cure!

The single most important thing you can do for your skin is wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing an SPF 50 every single day – and reapply it regularly! Those with fair skin are particularly susceptible to sun-induced ageing. Applying sunscreen daily to your face and other sun exposed areas can gradually diminish these signs and reduce the risk of developing sun-related cancers as you age. In essence, it helps maintain a youthful appearance for a longer period.

As well as sunscreen, consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat and UV protective clothing during sunny periods, whether at home or while travelling abroad. Try to avoid spending excessive time in the midday sun when it is most intense, particularly when abroad.

And, please, never use sunbeds. Sunbeds have been proven to accelerate skin ageing and significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Instead, opt for safer alternatives such as fake tan – there are some great products available these days. A lot of people still believe that getting a base tan protects against future UV exposure, but studies have shown that a base tan protects you about as much as a sunscreen with an SPF 3 or less.

What to do if you do get burnt

It goes without saying that staying out of the sun is key to avoid worsening the burn. A cool shower or cold flannel compress will help to reduce inflammation followed by a generous helping of a soothing aftersun lotion to help minimise the effects of the sun damage and help skin regenerate quickly. Keep plain Aloe Vera gel in the fridge to use for sunburn or skin irritation. It’s simple, soothing and effective, until you can get to something with added skincare benefits.

Drink plenty of water and use a good moisturiser to help repair your skin barrier. You’re going to have to be vigilant with sun protection going forwards – cover up with lightweight layers but also your skin may be feeling very sore, so opt for a spray sunscreen as that will be more gentle than rubbing anything into the skin.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s likely you’ll end up with some hyperpigmentation but this is easily tackled when the skin has healed. Gentle exfoliation is key, I love an acid-based combination for getting rid of dead skin cells. And apply Vitamin C every morning to fade superficial discolouration, boost radiance and smooth the texture of your skin. Consider getting some professional treatments to address the damage head-on. Skin boosters are great for restoring hydration and boosting collagen and elastin, which will reverse any skin ageing changes, whilst skin peels will fade pigmentation.

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