It’s summertime, baby! Even though COVID-19-related restrictions may mean you aren’t partaking of all your usual outdoor activities, we still want to help set you up for success when it comes to protecting your skin from the sun’s harsh rays. Did you know that your hair can also be damaged by UV exposure? Yep, you have to take extra care of your hair during warm weather, too!
Time spent in the sunshine can not only cause sunburn if you’re outside unprotected, but ultraviolet radiation from the sun can also cause longer-term issues. Damage from UV radiation can contribute to premature signs of aging like dull, discolored, or weathered skin, and in some cases can even lead to an increased chance of skin cancer. Yikes!
Individuals with less pigment in their hair, eyes, and skin are more at risk for sun damage, whereas those with darker skin tones have more melanin pigment in their skin and hair, which offers UV-protective properties. However, it’s important to note that anyone can experience sun damage, so it’s best to be careful no matter your skin tone! And even though sun damage to your hair may not be as visible as damage to your skin, it can still dry it out and create breakage and frizz.
Shining a light on sunscreen
There are two different types of sunscreen: those that create a physical barrier that blocks UV rays, often leaving a white cast on the skin; and those that have chemicals that absorb and scatter the sun’s rays, which are usually a little lighter in consistency. You also want to consider a sunscreen’s SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, into your choice of sunscreen. The SPF will tell you how long the sunscreen will protect you from burning, compared to the usual amount of time it takes you to burn. This is just a guideline, though, so make sure that you’re re-applying it frequently - every two hours is a good rule-of-thumb.
If you’d like to save your skin and the environment at the same time, look for a reef-safe sunscreen. Reef-safe sunscreens do not include certain chemical ingredients that can cause damage to sensitive marine ecosystems like coral reefs. To make sure you’re watching out for your hair and scalp, too, you can also apply hair mists with SPF which are formulated for hair and scalp - just be sure to wash it out when you’re finished with your time in the sun to avoid any undesirable coating on your locks.
Sun protection beyond sunscreen
The most foolproof way to make sure you are protected is by implementing physical barriers like hats, clothing, and sunglasses, or even simply staying in the shade, such as under a beach umbrella. Tightly woven or synthetic fabrics are more effective at blocking the sun’s rays, but during hot weather you may want to be wearing cooler, breezy fabrics like cotton or linen, especially if you’re covering up with long sleeves and pants. You can look into clothing made with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor), but if you’d rather stick with light fabrics, wearing pale colors like white or yellow can reflect UV rays rather than absorbing them, so there is less danger of your skin absorbing them. It’s also a great excuse to break out your bright summer duds!
One way to make sure your skin and hair are nourished and protected is by applying topical treatments. Rich, lightweight oils such as jojoba, argan, rosehip, or raspberry seed oil will help moisturize your scalp and smooth the hair cuticle to help reduce breakage, and they also provide a rejuvenating after-sun treatment for your skin. Hair conditioning masks are also a great way to keep your hair moisturized, especially in the sunny season. A personal fave is coconut oil for hair - you can even leave it on overnight for deep-conditioning and wash out in the morning. While these treatments won’t provide sun protection in and of themselves, having your skin and hair in great condition can help them recover from the immediate effects of the sun’s rays.
Your diet can also help protect you! There are a few different foods and supplements you can incorporate to support your body’s resilience in summer. Eating foods such as blueberries and leafy greens, or drinking green tea, provide beneficial antioxidants. Antioxidants help mitigate the damage caused by free radicals in the body, which can be triggered by exposure to UV rays. Foods high in the red-colored antioxidant lycopene, as found in tomatoes and especially watermelon, may help protect against sunburn when consistently consumed over time - though they are not a sufficient substitute for SPF or UPF protection! Finally, including collagen in your diet can benefit both the appearance and health of your skin, hair, and nails. When choosing a collagen supplement, be sure to pick one that is highly bioavailable and from sustainable sources.
While we encourage you to be careful and use precautions when playing in the sun’s rays, it is still a good idea to get out and get some sunshine! Outside time can have many benefits for your emotional health and is also important for maintaining healthy vitamin D levels. Always follow your area’s health guidelines regarding social distancing, but if you are able, we say wholeheartedly go for it and enjoy some safe (and protected) sun, fresh air, and time in nature!