Take care of your skin this summer with these tips.

 Summer is filled with fun in the sun, but it can also wreak havoc on your skin. The powerful rays of the sun beating down can leave your skin damaged and burned. Thankfully, there are things you can do to keep yourself protected while still enjoying all that a sunny day has to offer.

Sunblock vs. Sunscreen

 The most common protective measures are sunblock and sunscreen . Even though they sound similar, sunblock and sunscreen are actually two different things. Sunblock sits on top of your skin to create a barrier that blocks damaging UV rays. Sunscreen doesn't sit on top of the skin like sunblock and instead penetrates the skin. Both sunscreen and sunblock have their positive and negative aspects that will vary depending on what your needs are. No matter what you use, make sure to get the proper SPF for your needs.

What is SPF?

 Sun protective factor, or SPF, is a rating of how long sunscreen will protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. These rays cause sunburns and can damage the epidermis, which is where the most common types of skin cancer develop. The SPF number indicates how protected you are from those damaging UV rays. For example, when a sunscreen is labeled "SPF 30," this means that 1/30th of the UV rays will reach the skin. In order to work correctly, however, the sunscreen must be applied as directed on the bottle. Most experts recommend using sunscreen or sunblock with an SPF of 30 or higher for adequate protection from the summer sun. You can even get sunscreens or sunblock as high as SPF 75.

Check the Expiration Date 

Before applying sunscreen or sunblock, make sure to check its expiration date. If it has passed its expiration date or has been exposed to high temperatures, it may not be able to provide the protection it was once designed to. If you're pulling last year's sunscreen out of storage for the new summer season, there's a good chance it may be expired. Don't risk it; toss those old bottles in the trash, opting for a new one before heading out into the sun. 

When and How to Properly Apply

 When applying sunscreen or sunblock, read and follow the recommended application process as stated on the bottle. A good general rule of thumb is to apply the sunscreen or sunblock about 15 minutes before going outside. Evenly apply the lotion or cream all over all the exposed body parts, including the ears as well as the tops of your feet and legs. You should also apply a sunscreen lip balm that has an SPF of no less than 15. Reapply the sunscreen or sunblock at least every two hours. It should also be reapplied immediately after swimming or if you have been sweating excessively. If you are ever in doubt as to whether you need to reapply, just put on more sunscreen to be safe and avoid a sunburn.

 Keep in mind that while sunny days are the most common time to get burned, the sun's rays can still be harmful even on a cloudy day. Because of this, you should always take the necessary preventive steps to protect your skin every time you go outside. That may seem excessive to some, but you will be glad you took those extra steps when you aren't dealing with the serious effects associated with UV rays. 

Pay Attention to the Ingredients

Even though sunscreen and sunblock can work well to protect your skin, you shouldn't just grab a bottle off the shelf and think nothing of the ingredients or what they can do to the skin while applying them generously to your body. The unnecessary and often harmful chemicals found in sunscreens and sunblocks can be absorbed into your skin, potentially causing long-term reactions and allergy flare-ups. Furthermore, research by the Environmental Working Group suggests that some chemicals in common sunscreens and sunblocks are endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with certain hormone processes such as the thyroid. That's not saying you shouldn't use sunscreen or sunblock, but you should pay more attention to the ingredients before slathering them on your skin. The EWG website can provide more information about which ingredients to be wary of. 

Wear Appropriate Clothing 

Wearing clothing will protect any exposed skin from the harmful sun rays, but not all clothes are created equal. You should wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts that are made from tightly woven fabric for the best protection against UV rays. Furthermore, wet clothing is less protective than dry clothing, and dark colors can provide more protection than those that have a lighter shade.

A hat is another great way to protect yourself from the sun without being cooped up inside. For best results, wear a hat that features a wide brim. This will shade not only your head but your face, neck, and ears as well. While you're at it, put on a pair of sunglasses that are designed to block out both UVB and UVA rays; the higher the percentage blocked, the better.

Look for Shaded Areas and Drink Plenty of Water

While out in the sun, make sure to regularly take breaks in a shaded area. This is especially important during the midday hours when the sun is at its brightest. Don't forget to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Both of these simple steps will go a long way in helping to prevent sunburns and keep you healthy. 

Consider Using Sunless Tanners

 Tanning is a popular activity performed in the sun that can be detrimental to your skin's health. Before you subject your skin to the harsh rays of the summer sun, consider a sunless tanner option. Using sunless tanners gives you the same results as if you had laid out in the sun but without the harmful side effects. Tanning in the sun increases your chance of experiencing premature wrinkling and aging, and it leaves you with sometimes embarrassing tan lines. You won't experience this with sunless tanners. These products are also useful for covering up blemishes, hiding scars and spider veins, and evening skin tones. 

Sunburn Remedies

 Sunburns are no fun at all and can make even the simplest daily chore painful and unpleasant. Thankfully, there are several natural remedies for sunburn relief that you can make right in your own home with inexpensive and readily available products.

Cornstarch / Baking Soda

 If you have cornstarch or baking soda in your pantry, pour some in a mixing bowl and stir in a little bit of cold water. Keep adding the cold water until a thick paste forms. Gently spread the homemade burn relief paste over the sunburn and let it sit until the pain or heat has lessened. Once this occurs, gently rinse the paste off with cool water.

Mint and Green Tea

 Another remedy for sunburns is using fresh mint leaves and tea to relieve the pain while helping to heal the damaged skin. Mint is known for its natural ability to soothe and cool while the theobromine and tannic acid in green tea act as pain relievers and skin healers. To make this remedy, place five green tea bags -- making sure to remove the tags and strings -- and 3 cups of mint leaves in a large bowl or pan. Pour 1 quart of boiling water over the tea and mint, and cover with a lid. Let the mixture steep for about an hour. Remove and discard the tea bags and mint before chilling the tea in the fridge. When it's ready to use, saturate a soft cloth with the tea and apply it directly to the sunburn as needed.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel may have a spooky name, but it's been used for centuries to treat a number of different ailments. Witch hazel naturally contains tannins, which can help reduce swelling, keep bacteria at bay, and repair skin damaged by the sun. All you need for this sunburn relief remedy is a cloth dampened in witch hazel. Just dab the saturated cloth over the affected area as needed.

Apple Cider Vinegar

 Vinegar is also a useful tool that should be part of your sunburn relief kit. Not only is vinegar an all-natural deodorizer, degreaser, and cleaner, but it can help heal sunburns. However, you cannot use just regular distilled white vinegar; you will instead need to use apple cider vinegar. Fill a spray bottle with about 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. Wait until you have taken a water-only shower if you feel up to it, and lightly spray the sunburned area with the vinegar. Reapply as needed.

Aloe and Calendula Products

If you don't want to make your own sunburn relief, don't worry. There are several different ready-made products available at your local grocery store or pharmacy. These products generally contain aloe vera or calendula. Aloe vera is a popular plant that is often known as the "burn plant" for its ability to soothe and heal burned skin. Calendula is a golden orange flower that naturally contains antioxidants. It has been used for many years to soothe and nourish skin damaged by the sun.

In the End…

 Taking the necessary preventive steps against the sun's harmful rays is the best defense against the potentially damaging effects they can have on your skin. Wouldn't you rather take the extra time to keep sunburns at bay than try to deal with one when you are already suffering through it? As the old saying goes, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Remember that before heading out the door to enjoy a day outside.