How to prevent sun damage if you’re prone to pigmentation.

Acne

Summer is here and I hope you have a relaxing one planned maybe in the south of France or somewhere more exotic like Bali. Maybe you’re winding down from work and having a staycation, catching up on sleep, exercise and spending time with friends/family.

My patients often ask me how to prevent wrinkles and one of the biggest (not-so) secret ways is to protecting against the sun. This is one of the key must in Oriental/ Korean/Japanese women who look younger than their western sisters and their skin is often amazing with no wrinkles in sight.

In Europe, when the sun is out, we soak up the sunshine in the park or beach. In Asia, when the sun is out, we hold an umbrella and stay in the shade. You will never catch one actually sun bathing. I have “hard core” friends who will apply full face/body sunscreen, cover up, stay under the big umbrella while their children and husband play on the beach and sea. They NEVER go in the water. As I was growing up in Malaysia, I got used to seeing women wearing their husband’s over-sized long sleeve shirts backwards to protect their arms from the sun while they were driving. They still do it.

In Asia, there are underground air conditioned walk-ways between shopping complexes so you don’t have to go outside and feel the heat at all. So that protects against damage from UV rays, pollution, the heat and humidity.

Unfortunately I grew up loving sports and the outdoors, tanning until I was chocolate brown when I was as young as 8 years old. As I’ve grown, I’ve learn more about skin and although I could never give up being outdoors, I’m more cautious of my sun exposure, protecting it as much as I can and using good skin products / skin treatments to reverse the sun damage that I’ve accumulated all my years before and ahead of me.

So in this blog, I will share with you what I’ve learned personally and professionally helping my patients protect their skin against worsening pigmentation. I will do a future blog on repairing sun damage skin.

Hope you find this list of summer skin tips useful. May your skin stay glowing, acne-free and safe (from sun damage and risk of skin cancer) this summer.

 

1. Use the right SPF and reapply it throughout the day.

 

 

SPF tells you how long you can stay in the sun without getting burned WHILE wearing that sunscreen, compared with how long you can stay in the sun before you burn without wearing that sunscreen.

For example, if it typically takes you 15 minutes to burn without sunscreen and you apply an SPF 10, it will take 10 times longer (2.5 hours) to burn in the sun.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends daily SPF 30 to all exposed skin. If you wear lower SPF, you just need reapply it more often. But I would recommend reapplying it every 2 hours, as well as after swimming, sweating and wiping your mouth after a meal (you want to avoid tanning your upper lip giving you a funny looking moustache).

Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on your ears, neck, lips (you can use a lip balm with SPF), décolletage and hands - these are all easy places to forget. And wear your large sun glasses and wide brim hat to protect the delicate skin around your eyes and face against direct sun light.

 

2. Prevent breakouts.

Heat and sweat all spell oilier skin and increase breakouts. Increase breakouts = more inflammation, leading to increased pigmentation. Add sun to the mix and you can get darker pigmentation. Use sunscreens that are light, non-comedogenic and will not clog your pores.

My favourite are:-

  1. Weightless Protection SPF 45 by PCA Skin
  2. Ultra Shield Lotion SPF 50 by Epionce
  3. UV Protect SPF 50+ by ph Formula

 

 

You can use a spot gel e.g. Purifying Spot gel by Epionce to reduce the inflammation. Avoid using pure tea tree oil as this increases the skin sensitivity to the sun.

Be mindful of the food you eat or drink while on holiday that can trigger your breakouts e.g. sugary ice-cream, pop corns or cocktails.

 

3. Apply a pigment blocker under your sunscreen.

UV rays (even on cloudy days) and heat can produce more melanin and cause it to come up to the surface of your skin as a protective measure.

Melanin in our skin is important as it gives us colour and protect us from sunburn. Compare a fair, blue-eyed, blond skin type vs a darker, black hair, skin type. Darker skin tone has more melanin, hence they don’t burn as easily as fairer skin tones. Although melanin can give us a level of sun protection, we can still get burned so it’s important to apply SPF, whatever your colour.

Literature will say if you have a tan, you have skin damage. However there is superficial and deep damage so if you wear your high SPF, reapply it and stay out of the sun but you’re still getting some colour, I believe the melanin that you already have is coming up to the surface to protect you and you’re not actually making more melanin. A little colour (by default) is good as it’s adding an extra protective layer to your skin.

Applying a pigment blocked under your sunscreen will help block the melanin production pathway and prevent new pigmentation forming. If you’re prone to pigmentation, you will want to reapply this throughout the day especially after you swim or sweat.

My favourite pigment blockers are:-

  1. MELA Serum by ph Formula
  2. Melanolyte TX by Epionce

NB: If you love to swim (either in the pool or sea) and are prone to pigmentation, you will want to use a surfers sunscreen which mainly contains physical filters e.g. zinc oxide and titanium oxide. This will reflect UV light away from the skin, especially important as you burn quicker swimming as there’s added reflection from the water. I appreciate it’s not very sexy looking as it leaves a white cast but it will protect your skin better than normal sunscreens as it doesn’t get washed off as easily.

 

 

A good brand is Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen which is environmentally friendly (doesn’t cause harm to the coral reefs) and is water resistant for up to 80minutes.

 

4. Keep your retinol at home.

Unless it’s low concentration (e.g. 0.3%) or your skin is very used to retinol that you don’t become red, sensitive or peeling, leave it out this summer.

Retinol is a great skin resurfacing agent i.e. it helps to renew skin cells, refine acne scars, reduce the appearance of pores, treat pigmentation and reduce acne. However if you’re just starting out with retinol, your skin will go through a transition phase when it’s renewing and the epidermis (skin barrier) is impaired so you’re more susceptible to UV damage. Once the skin gets used to it, it becomes more resilient.

However retinol in lower concentration works as a great antioxidant and will protect against free radicals from the sun, heat, air travel and pollution so if you are already tolerating a low concentration of retinol, you can continue it. If you’re unsure about your retinol product, please ask.

 

5. Use an antioxidant spritzer to stay cool

As I mentioned above, UV rays, air travel and pollution can all produce free radicals which can cause more damage to the skin cells so applying an antioxidant cream/ serum or spritzer will give that extra protection to the skin.

My favourite antioxidant spritzer is POWER Essence Tonic by ph Formula.

 

 

6. Don’t skip on your Omega 3 supplement.

Omega 3 actually reduces the skin’s susceptibility to UV damage by 50% so when you’re on holiday, you definitely want to get a good dose e.g 2000mg/ day.

My favourite ones are:-

  • Ultimate Oil Blend by Udo’s Choice
  • Triple Omega by Zenii skincare. 

 

7. Exfoliate your skin

Exfoliation will help prevent up of dead skin cells and ensure an even skin colouring under the sun. However, stick to physical exfoliators and skip your chemical exfoliators e.g. AHA’s during the hotter months. This will avoid impairing your epidermal skin barrier, so avoiding any sensitivity and increasing risk of sun burn.

NB: Please do not exfoliate when your skin is red and sensitive. Leave until your skin has calmed down and maybe feel a little rough from being out in the sun.

I hope the list above helps.

If you need help planning your holiday skincare, let me know.

If you need help repairing your skin after your holidays, let me know too.

I am able to work with my patients virtually with the help of Harley, an online platform that connects skin professionals with clients all around the world. For more information on how this works, you can learn more here.

Until next time, have fun planning and stay safe in the sun.

To your best self,

 

Dr Terry

 

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