Thinking About Our Skin as We Transition From Summer to Fall
With summer ending and cooler weather just around the corner, many of us spend our last weeks outdoors in the sun before the pumpkin spice and sweaters come out. And although temperatures may start to drop, it’s essential to keep practicing sun safety, even when the weather cools down. Keeping your skin safe means sun protection, even when it’s overcast or cooler outside. Fortunately, there are many options and ways we can do this. With so many different sun protection options and the overwhelming advice readily available online and on social media, it’s easy to overlook the easy, everyday approaches we can take to avoid getting excess UV exposure.
3 Simple Skin Tricks for Late Summer and Early Fall
- Seek shade, even when it’s overcast
- Sunscreen, so many new options
- Post-exposure plan
Shade. The first and simplest thing to protect our skin is to seek shade. This can be anything from walking on the shady side of the street to remembering to bring your umbrella on a road trip to the beach. Shade is our skin’s first barrier against damaging UV radiation. Plan on outdoor activities before 11 am and after 3 pm since these are the hours when UV radiation is lower. Always remember to wear a hat when outdoors. Besides skin cancer, UV radiation contributes to uneven skin tones, wrinkles, and other mutations that cause cosmetically undesirable consequences. Choosing quality sunglasses can also help prevent wrinkles from forming since we don’t squint as much when our eyes are protected from bright light. The delicate skin surrounding our eyes can also be covered with hats and sunglasses.
UV protective clothing is another easy way to avoid getting sun damage when spending time outdoors. With so many options on the market for sun protective clothing, make sure to choose one with SPF protection of 50+ if it is your only protection method. Be sure to wash and dry them properly, and if they stretch and wear significantly, consider replacing them to ensure the SPF protection remains intact.
Sunscreen. Shopping for sunscreen can be downright overwhelming. With so many new products arriving on the shelf, how do you know what to choose? A few quick tips to keep in mind when shopping for sunscreen can save your skin, time, and money. The biggest decision when selecting a sunscreen should be between chemical and physical barriers.
Chemical sunscreens use a formulation that may contain any combination of avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, oxybenzone, and octisalate. Over a dozen currently approved chemical sunscreen ingredients are approved by the FDA. However, only about half of these are used regularly in US markets. The other type of sunscreen is a physical barrier sunscreen containing zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. These sunscreens function differently on our skin, but both provide protection. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing radiation, while physical sunscreens reflect away from our skin.
What About How Sunscreen Looks or Sits on the Skin?
Your dermatologist is not worried as much about the cosmetic appearance of sunscreens, recommending the ones with the best protection and safety profiles rather than the ones with a better cosmetic appearance. Every year, SkinCancer.Org publishes lists of sunscreens and rates them, which is a great way to shop before you get overwhelmed in the sunscreen aisle.
It’s essential to choose a water-resistant sunscreen if you are swimming or sweating. Some makeup has UV protection incorporated into the formulation, and this can be convenient if you apply it every morning.
To that end, the application of sunscreen is an important consideration that some of us overlook. One thing that can get skipped in this daily sun protection routine is the hands and the neck/chest. Even if your makeup contains SPF, it’s a good idea to protect the rest of your exposed skin daily and more thoroughly if you are outdoors for more than 15 minutes. And reapply regularly according to your dermatologist’s advice
Post-exposure care. If you’ve spent the day outdoors, and gotten too much sun, even with good intentions about careful sun protection, you need a proper post-sun-exposure routine. Even dermatologists occasionally get sunburns, so it’s helpful to plan for when you get too much sun.
First, use a heavy moisturizer and avoid products containing ingredients that might irritate your skin. Aloe, a traditional remedy, can provide some relief, you can be sensitive to aloe too, and even natural remedies can cause skin irritation. If your skin is painful and red, over-the-counter cortisone cream can help (please use as directed), and applying cool compresses can also alleviate moderate burns.
For those who spend a lot of time outdoors, your skin may become tanned, and eventually, mutations may develop. Different benign skin conditions that develop from UV-driven mutations include lentigo, seborrheic keratoses, guttate hypomelanosis, and melasma. These are best diagnosed by your dermatologist, and laser treatments may be available to help eliminate cosmetically concerning skin lesions. These treatments can be creams, peels, or laser therapy.
Malignant skin mutations also develop with significant UV radiation exposure, including melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Some forms of skin cancer can now be treated with topical creams, but larger cancers typically must be surgically removed. Catching skin cancer early can mean the difference between an invasive management approach like surgery or radiation versus a non-invasive or less-invasive therapy. This is one more reason it’s crucial to get regular skin checks, especially if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer or have spent a lot of time in the sun.
These checks are not just for those who live or visit warmer climates or are active outdoors. Daily sun exposure knows no geography, and the sun’s effects are not seasonal. Staying on top of preventative care all year round is key to a lifetime of good health and wellness.
- Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). An update on sunscreen requirements. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved September 14, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/drugs/news-events-human-drugs/update-sunscreen-requirements-deemed-final-order-and-proposed-order
Song, H., Beckles, A., Salian, P., & Porter, M. L. (2021). Sunscreen recommendations for patients with skin of color in the popular press and the Dermatology Clinic. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, 7(2), 165–170. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijwd.2020.10.008