Skin Deep

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After the long spell of seasonal confusion, we’re all counting the days to when we can face a full sun—no peek-a-boo. Since winter has beaten our faces dry, it will be essential to give our skin some TLC for the summer. Here are some tips for the healthy maintenance of a summer glow.

Exfoliation is key, as it rids your skin of dead, dry skin cells. Chemical or physical exfoliation—using peels or face washes—will keep your face looking fresh. Overdoing it, however, can further dry out your pores, and only once a day or twice a week is recommended. This also applies to the body, which can be buffed using a washcloth, loofah, buff puff and microdermabrasion creams and tools, in gentle circular motions on wet skin. For particularly oily skin, follow with a gentle toner.

This prepares the skin to quench its thirst. A liquid or cream moisturizer should be smoothed on to absorb immediately after a shower, as this is when the skin can recreate its natural barriers. Exfoliated and moisturized skin makes self-tanners and tinted moisturizers less likely to become streaky upon application. Tinted moisturizers line the shelves this year, and act as makeup for the body. They wash off in the shower and usually do not contain SPF—not to be confused with sunscreen. Whatever moisturizer is used should be noncomedogenic, which prevents breakouts and clogged pores.

Last but certainly not least: Apply sunscreen! Sun protection prevents the burns, redness and peeling that scourge of beach loungers everywhere, but with the growing number of choices each year, one must be discerning. The fairer your skin and the lighter your eyes, the higher SPF factor sunscreen or sun block is needed. The minimum for everyone, regardless of complexion, is SPF 15 with UVA and UVB protection provided by broad-spectrum agents. Read the labels carefully. While the broad range of choices allows for subjectivity (you can choose glittery ones or greaseless formulas), checking for the basic requirements is essential to adequately protect your skin. Under-application is a common mistake. Be generous, covering every part of your body, and remember that sunscreen takes 15 to 20 minutes to activate fully—so apply at home, not once you reach the sands. Re-application is important, as most sunscreens only last for two hours. Scars tend to lighten or darken when exposed to the sun, so SPF 30 or higher is recommended for those areas.

If your skin is consistently exposed to the sun, it is important to check for warning signs of skin cancer once a month, standing in front of a full-length mirror and checking every part of your body. Any new growths, spots, bumps, patches or sores that remain after three months should be checked by a physician. The spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin, redness or swelling beyond the border, itchiness, tenderness or pain in the area, and change in the surface of a mole (scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule) are all common signs. Signs are often ignored as patchiness or birthmarks, so it is important to perform regular checks and seek medical attention immediately if you feel you may have an irregular skin condition.

If laying on the beach in the hopes for that golden glow tries your patience, this summer offers a variety of alternative options. Sunless tanners now come in the anti-streak variety, and do-it-yourself airbrush tanning kits are now available in stores. The active ingredient in sunless tanners is usually dihydrozyacetone (DHA), which produces a tan color as a reaction to the amino acids on the surface layer of your skin. Gels tend to dry out the skin, while sprays and lotions are kinder. Airbrush tanning consists of spraying DHA solution onto your body with a spray gun. While these products are generally very safe, they do not provide protection; so once again, follow the golden rule—no scrimping on sunscreen.

Sources: WebMD and WikiHow

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