SOS summer: how to protect your skin? Ask the dermatologist

Article written by Dr. Santo Raffaele Mercuri, Head Physician of Dermatology at IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele

Finally the most beloved season is coming and brings with it long sunny days and life in the open air; but the desire to enjoy the summer and to sunbathe to show off a splendid tan should never make us forget the tricks necessary for a proper care of our skin.

Photo credit: ShutterStock
Photo credit: ShutterStock

UV RAYS AND SUN PROTECTION FACTORS

It is true that tanning is the main defense mechanism that the skin adopts to protect from the harmful action of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Of course, however, this mechanism may not be sufficient in the event of frequent, prolonged and uncontrolled exposure to the sun; it is therefore essential to protect adequately, regardless of your skin type [the “biological condition” that indicates how much melanin we have in the skin, Editor’s Note]. The abbreviation “SPF” found on the packaging of sunscreens is an acronym for “Sun protection factor”, and it indicates the degree of protection and the ability of sunscreens to protect the skin, especially from radiation UVB (cause of erythema) and UVA (which instead penetrate deep into the epidermis).

Perfect sun protection should contain a mix of chemical and physical filters:

  • physical filters act mechanically, dispersing and reflecting the sun’s rays, as they contain opaque substances (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) that function as a “mirror”, rejecting all radiation, without distinction;
  • chemical filters contain complex organic molecules, such as oxybenzone and sulphonic acid, which absorb the energy of solar radiation and partly return it in the form of heat.

THE RIGHT SUN PROTECTION

What consistency should a sun protection have to guarantee maximum protection? There are many possibilities: generally, thanks to its consistency, solar milk is mostly used for the body, while sun cream, with its richer texture, is more suited to the face. Attention to the spray: it can happen, during the application, of not being able to cover the whole skin and could therefore be more risky. It is sufficient, however, to pay attention to the supply direction and then immediately spread the product to cover each area, creating a protective layer that can be perceived by touch.

Those who have fair skin and tend to get burned, rather than tan, should definitely rely on SPF 50 protection for the duration of the exposure, remembering that any sun protection should be applied again after about 2 or 3 hours.

Photo credit: ShutterStock
Photo credit: ShutterStock

Who, on the other hand, has olive-colored skin or easily conquers the much loved suntan, for the first days of exposure it is recommended to use an SPF 50, to then gradually pass to an SPF of not less than 30.

If I’m already tanned, can I do without sunscreen? Absolutely not: the radiation protection power applied by an already tanned skin is much lower than the screen offered by sunscreens. Remember that products with high SPF do not tan less, but simply guarantee a slower, less traumatic and longer lasting tan!

Photo credit: ShutterStock
Photo credit: ShutterStock

LATEST IMPORTANT ADVICE

Never expose yourself to the sun during the hottest hours: it is estimated that around 50% of ultraviolet rays reach the Earth between 11:00 am and 3:00 pm. Beware of reflective surfaces such as water and sand: the risk of sunburn increases in the proximity of these surfaces. Finally, remember that, just like the skin, even the eyes can be damaged by solar radiation and therefore must be adequately protected!

Photo credit: ShutterStock
Photo credit: ShutterStock

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