Summer can be a confusing season to navigate when it comes to your skincare habits and it’s often difficult to know where to start. But, with a little care and the right after-sun treatment, your skin will glow all summer long.
The biggest external factor contributing to ageing of your skin is the sun. And, prevention is better than cure. Or, as I say, early intervention is lifelong prevention. Small efforts – such as using sunscreen everyday – go a long way in counteracting potential harm.
To make sense of all the information out there, I recently appeared on The Today Show to answer some of the most common questions I get about summer skincare. In case you missed it, here's my advice:
What sunscreen should I choose?
Four tips for choosing a sunscreen that protects you from cancer and ageing are:
Opt for a cream or lotion
My favourite sunscreens are creams and lotions because you’re more likely to get proper coverage. While sprays are easier to apply and often feel better, there’s a greater chance you’ll miss areas of your body.
Look for the highest SPF
I recommend looking for a 50+ SPF. Paired with thorough and regular application, a high SPF rating is important in preventing sun damage to your skin.
Choose a broad spectrum option
Broad spectrum sunscreens protect from UVA and UVB rays. Protection from both is vital in combating ageing and skin cancer.
Choose mineral or physical blocking sunscreen ingredients
Look for one with zinc and or titanium dioxide. They block both UVA and UVB rays and are “natural” minerals that block UV by reflecting the rays off your skin. Also perfect for sensitive skin types.
How much do I need to use?
Application is everything. Believe it or not, most people under-apply sunscreen by half. My easy to follow rule of thumb is two applications, two hours apart. Use one teaspoon for your face and neck and then one teaspoon per limb. Make sure you apply a good 20-minutes before going outside.
I have sensitive skin; what sunscreen should I use?
I suggest choosing a mineral sunscreen. Fundamentally, these are zinc and titanium-based products that reflect UV rays. Modern technology means the zinc creams we remember from years ago – think chalky white faces – have largely been superseded by more easily absorbed options (including tinted varieties). This has been achieved by making the large particles of zinc (macromolecules) into smaller particles (micro and nano particles). They spread better on the skin – they're smaller and therefore less visible.
Do I need to reapply after swimming?
Sunscreens are water resistant not waterproof. So, yes, always reapply after swimming. And, don’t forget sunscreen should be applied at least 20-minutes prior to water exposure. Swimming, sweating and towelling all take off your sunscreen, so reapply after all three.
Can I use the same sunscreen I used last summer?
When it comes to regulation, sunscreens are treated like medication i.e. they go off. This is because sunscreen ingredients break down. My advice is to store sunscreen in a cool, dark place and throw it out if expired.
Can you reduce damage after sun exposure?
While my focus is on prevention, early treatment plays an important role. Should your skin suffer sun damage, evidence suggests skin can repair itself with a helping hand. There are some great topical agents, like prescriptive vitamin A, that assist with such rejuvenation. Products that include alpha and beta hydroxy acids, like in my Concentrated Clarifier are of great benefit. This clarifier is powerful yet gentle in exfoliating sun-damaged layers of skin, while creating new fresh young skin cells. My Concentrated Micropeel with lactic and salicylic acid also accelerates the cell turnover process, helping remove and fade pigmentation and sun damaged skin, bringing back your skin's radiance.
What are the best things I can do after a day in the sun?
Skincare after sun exposure should be based on hydration and restoration. If you notice dehydration and redness, then a Concentrated Moisturiser and a high dose of vitamin B3 can give your skin the boost it needs.
Vitamin B3 has been shown to reboot the immune system of the skin after sun exposure. You see, your skin’s immune cells “run away” when exposed to the sun, making you more susceptible to skin cancer. Topically applied B3 in the right concentrations will bring immune cells back and restore your skin's health and radiance. On top of that, B3 prevents pigmentation while rehydrating and restoring the skin's barrier function. That’s why it’s in my Concentrated Hydration+ cream (as well as medical-grade lanolin, glycerin, shea butter and skin lipids).
B3 is also central to a new serum I’ve created – the Concentrated Illuminator. Launching in early 2017, it combines both vitamin B3 and vitamin C – the perfect night serum to restore, rebuild, lighten and brighten your after sun exposure. Keep an eye out for it and be sure to add it into your skincare regime.
Dr Natasha Cook