What to do when the Sun steals your shine and damages your skin
4 ways to revive and repair sun-damaged skin
Summer is well underway, and for many of us who prefer cooler temperatures, fall cannot come soon enough! If you were dutiful about following our Summer skincare tips, your skin should be glowing and showing out. Yet, if you dropped the ball, and I don’t know, forgot to wear sunscreen daily, then you are [back] in the right place. Keep scrolling to learn how you can revive and repair sun-damaged skin.
How does sun damage occur?
Before we get into it, let’s clarify what sun damage is or how it occurs. The Sun is powerful. I mean, this single ball of energy gives light to an entire planet, after all! In emitting light, the Sun gives off different types of rays. The ones that cause sun damage are ultraviolet - UVA and UVB - rays. These two culprits produce sunburn. While most broad-spectrum sunscreens can protect your skin against the Sun’s damaging rays, most people do not apply sunscreen as they should. We spoke about that here. Between UVA and UVB rays, the latter plays a critical role in causing skin cancer. While the former causes premature aging.
The amount of time you can spend in the Sun before sun damage occurs depends on your skin tone. People with darker skin tones can spend more time in the Sun, but that is by no means an invitation to sunbathe! Dermatologists recommend that you spend a maximum of 30 minutes getting direct sunlight if your skin is dark. Those with fair complexions should spend no more than 15 minutes doing the same. In other words, if you plan to spend a lot more time basking in the Sun, ensure that you protect your skin with sunscreen, proper clothing, and shade. Lots of shade!
What to do after you experience sun damage?
1. Avoid direct sunlight until your skin heals
This answer may seem obvious for some, but it is worth mentioning anyway. After sun damage occurs, your skin becomes vulnerable. Depending on its severity, your skin may be raw or fleshy, scaly, and sensitive to touch. These types of reactions to sun damage are signs that your skin does not need any more direct sun exposure for a while! Spending more time in the sun while your skin is in this state can trigger more permanent skin issues, including malignant melanoma.
2. Apply aloe vera to the sun-damaged area
While avoiding direct sunlight, apply anti-inflammatory, soothing creams, gels, or ointments. If you prefer to use more holistic products, aloe vera is still one of the best treatments for sun-damaged skin. This antioxidant-rich plant contains enzymes, and vitamins A and C. Aloe vera treats burns, cuts, and other minor abrasions. Treat your sunburn as you would any other burn by applying aloe vera directly to the damaged area. Do this up to three times a day for relief.
Note: aloe vera is a natural exfoliant! Overusing it can dry out your skin or cause it to become too oily, depending on your skin type.
3. Use an emollient-rich moisturizer that contains vitamin E
When I lived back home in The Bahamas, Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula with Vitamin E was my moisturizer and sunscreen. This emollient-rich moisturizer is perfect for days in the Sun because vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that reduces UV damage in the skin. Because it is emollient-rich, it is heavier and sits on top of the skin. It acts as a barrier to free radicals released by the Sun’s harmful rays. Use this while treating sun-damaged skin with aloe vera for healed skin that is smooth, silky, and even.
4. Get a chemical peel
If you are more stubborn than most and cannot get enough of the Sun’s harmful rays, more power to you. Sunbathing and its damaging effects are luxuries that most people cannot afford, so maybe you're rich. Once sun damage occurs, the skin cells on your outermost layers are dead. While it is normal for skin cells to die every day due to free radicals, sun-damage death is more pervasive. When you arrive at this point, the best solution is a medium to a deep chemical peel. Depending on the type of chemical peel that you get, a medical esthetician can apply this treatment. Deeper peels may require a dermatologist, local anesthesia, and downtime indoors.
A chemical peel exfoliates your skin and speeds up the process of skin cell regeneration. In the case of sun-damaged skin, a chemical peel will slough away the damaged skin cells. The caveat to a chemical peel is that it increases skin photosensitivity. Meaning, you will need to avoid direct sunlight if you don’t want more permanent sun damage. While I know people who do chemical peels every 4-6 weeks, my experiences taught me that four times a year is best. Too much of anything can be bad for your skin, and a chemical peel is no exception.
Listen, live your best life this Summer! After the catastrophe that was 2020, we all deserve to have a hot girl summer. However, let’s be sure to take care of and prepare for the skin that we want to take into the cooler months of the year. You know - Fall - aka pretty b*tch season. Wear a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. Apply it over your entire body, and be sure to reapply as often as necessary. If that is too much for you, there are sunscreen sprays for your convenience! Until next time, stay safe and sheltered from the Sun!