We asked a renowned plastic surgeon to share his top advice for protecting your skin from sun damage this summer (it goes way beyond a basic SPF!)
Summer is in full swing and while this might be the season of fun in the sun, if you’re not careful, it can wreak havoc on your skin. We asked Dr. Gerald Imber, M.D., a New York City-based plastic surgeon, SHAPE advisory board member, and author of The Youth Corridor (his latest edition with embedded video is now available on itunes) to go over the A, B, C, and D’s of summer sun care.
Q: What’s the biggest challenge our skin faces this time of year?
A: UVA and UVB rays—it’s as simple as that. With UVA rays, think of the A for aging. It’s responsible for wrinkles and some skin cancers—possibly melanoma. With UVB rays, B is for burning. This wavelength burns the skin’s surface. It’s also responsible for the breakdown of collagen and maybe some skin cancers as well. You need to be protected from both of these.
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Q: How can we ensure we’re getting enough coverage?
A: When choosing a sunscreen, go with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30. SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent of the burning rays. SPF 15 blocks considerably less. And between SPF 30 to 50+, there’s almost no change. Plus, at that level, the formulation is still elegant. It feels decent on your skin and mixes well with moisturizer. You also need to prevent the formation of free radicals. Sunburn sets up a situation in the skin called oxidation. It releases free radicals, which break down collagen, making skin looser and older-looking. It also makes skin cells behave in an improper fashion, leading to skin cancer. A vitamin C serum—like my Youth Corridor Boost 2.0—reverses old sun damage and has been proven time and time again to help prevent future damage. It’s not a sunscreen, but it works with a sunscreen.
Q: In addition to vitamin C, your Boost 2.0 Serum also contains vitamin E and melatonin. Why are these important?
A: Studies done about a decade ago showed that if you put vitamin C on the skin, it somewhat prevents the skin from getting burned. If you add vitamin E, the effect is a little bit better. And if you add melatonin to the mix, it dramatically protects your skin.
Q: How often do we need to apply—and reapply—sunscreen?
A: The combination of the antioxidant boost serum and a moisturizer with SPF is something that everyone has to do every day. Put your antioxidant serum on first. If you’re heading to work and won’t be spending much time outside, layer it with a moisturizer that contains sunscreen. That should do you for the day. If you’re outdoors, you have to remember to reapply sunscreen regularly. I suggest every half hour. It’s just critical. You perspire off your sunscreen. Or, you go into the water and it washes off. There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. Doctors have long suspected that regular sunscreen use can slow the signs of aging, but now new research shows daily use of sunscreen reduces skin aging by at least 24%. (Read more about the study here.)
Q: Are brown spots a summertime issue?
They’re usually the result of long-term sun exposure. But there’s also another component for women and that’s hormonal. You can get brown spots from changes in your estrogen levels that occur when taking birth control pills or during pregnancy. It’s a condition called Melasma that’s accentuated by the sun. The best way to deal with spots is to get rid of them as soon as you see them. If bleaching creams don’t work, then try a superficial laser. It’s worth the effort to get rid of them once and for all.
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Q: Is there anything else we should do for our skin this time of year?
A: Technically, you should get a little bit of unprotected sun exposure to generate natural vitamin D, which ensures bone health. But the reality is that 15 minutes a week is enough. The day that you don’t slather on the sunscreen every half hour, you’re probably getting more than enough. Everything else in the summer is about common sense. The important thing is to find protective products that work and are pleasant enough that you’ll use them regularly.
Get both Dr. Gerald Imber’s Youth Corridor Boost 2.0 and Soothe and DefendTM Moisturizer with SPF 30 UVA and UVB Protection in the Summer Sun Pack ($99 at tryboost2.com).