Wondering what “Slip-Slop-Slap” mean? It’s an international sun protection campaign stressing on protecting oneself from harmful effects of ultraviolet rays especially skin cancer by taking simple measures. It says ‘Slip on a shirt, Slop on the sunscreen & Slap on a hat” as summer has already begun and it’s the right time to protect your skin from tan and darkness.
Some of the common skin problems faced in summer include:
Tanning occurs because of increased production of melanin as a response to sun exposure to protect the inner layers of the skin from damage. This is the reason skin changes color after prolonged exposure to sunlight. Though it’s a protective measure and is considered as fashion in west, it is a matter of great cosmetic concern in Indian population.
This is seen due to long exposure of unprotected skin to ultraviolet rays. It is manifested by cutaneous redness, swelling and pain. More severe cases can produce tiny fluid-filled bumps (vesicles) or larger blisters. Ultraviolet radiation can also damage important molecules in the skin such as DNA.
- Heat rash:
It presents as tiny, itchy bumps or blisters, most often in skin folds or places where clothes cause friction. This occur due to clogging of sweat ducts which trap perspiration under the skin.
- Dry skin:
The skin appears dry, flaky and slightly more wrinkled than skin on other parts of your body that have not been exposed to the sun. Dry skin is also one of the most common causes of itching.
Prolonged sun exposure can lead to premature aging, causing excessive oil and sweat, fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin discoloration, and loss of collagen, hydration and vitamins.
Overexposure to the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet (UV) light can also lead to skin cancer and precancerous lesions like actinic keratoses. Since sun damage accumulates over time, it’s never too late to start a sun protection regimen.
Remedies for common skin problems during the summer:
Sun protection measures should not be limited to summer, rather it has to be continued year round to prevent further sun damage and this will help in reversing some of the damage already done.
Use Sunscreen: Most people know enough to use sunscreen before outdoor activities. But what is less known is importance of wearing sunscreen year round even if working indoors or during winters. In summer the UV ray is strongest. It’s important to wear sunscreen always, but especially between 10A.M. AND 4 P.M. Sunscreen protects your skin from visible aging (sun spots, inflammation, uneven skin tone, rough texture, fine lines, wrinkles, loss of collagen and dehydration).
Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of at least 30. For those with fair skin, opt for SPF 50. Using a sunscreen with higher PA rating protects the skin from UVA rays and thus tanning. To be most effective, sunscreen needs time to absorb into your skin. Apply 20-30 minutes before going outside and reapply every 4 hours. Sunscreen can be either in cream, gel or emulsion form, to be chosen based on your skin type whether it is normal, dry, or oily. It is important to use sunscreen not only on face but also on all parts of skin exposed to light such as neck, upper chest, back and hands.
Recommended dose: 2 fingertip unit is an adequate amount of sunscreen to face and neck. (One fingertip unit means strip of cream squeezed out of the tube onto the fingertip, from the distal crease of the index finger to the end of the finger itself).
Exfoliate: Skin cells are shed at a very quick rate daily during summer, so if you don’t get rid of the dead cells sitting on top of your skin, they can cause it to look dull and give uneven color to the skin. Scrubs, Superficial chemical peeling and microdermabrasion can help in exfoliating these dead cells. This not only improves tone but also help in better absorption of moisturizers, serum and toners.
Hydrate: The dermis is made up of 70% water and the epidermis, 15%. Summer exposure to sun, chlorine, and salt water can dry out your skin – even the heels of your feet can be affected leading to cracked heels. In order to keep the skin well moisturized but not oily and greasy, it’s important to choose a water based moisturizer that balances the level of water within the skin. Fissure feet can be managed by soaking feet in Luke warm water for 10-15 minutes, followed by a scrub, pat drying and applying a moisturizer every night. A moisturizer or facial serum with hyaluronic acid and oat extracts can plump up dry skin, making skin instantly appear less wrinkled. Continued use will promote collagen synthesis and hence making skin of face tight and less wrinkled.
Vitamin C supplementation: Vitamin C has loads of antioxidants that helps repair sun damage, reduce sunburn caused by exposure to ultraviolet B radiation and prevent the consequences of long-term sun exposure that leads to wrinkles, fine lines, uneven skin tone, and loss of collagen. Vitamin C is also great in preventing and reducing acne. Taking a Vitamin C supplement apart from Vitamin is C in your food is helpful in summer.
Seek Shade: Seeking shade is very important when you are out in sun, but shade alone cannot protect your skin from harmful effects of sun rays. This is because UVB rays, often considered the most harmful part of sunlight, can reach the skin indirectly. Indirect or diffuse UV light is radiation that has been scattered by the clouds and other elements in the atmosphere, and/or bounced back from UV-reflective surfaces like dry sand or concrete. Hats with broad brims all around and those with brims angled downwards give the greatest UV protection; brims must be at least three inches wide to give reasonable sun protection around the nose and cheeks. Umbrellas unless they are very large, give relatively little UV protection. Shady trees are always inviting on a hot, sunny day, and those with large spreads of dense foliage best protects well from the sun. Wear sunglasses year-round when you are out in the sun.
Clothing: Fabrics are made of tiny fibers woven or knitted together. UV can pass directly through these holes to reach the skin. The tighter the knit or weave, the smaller the holes and the less UV can get through. Synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic are more protective than bleached cottons. Shiny or lustrous semi-synthetic fabrics like rayon reflect more UV than linen, which tends to absorb and not reflect UV. Finally, consider the fabric’s weight and density — light, sheer silk gauze will offer far less UV protection than heavy cotton denim. Darker colors tend to absorb more UV than lighter colors, including whites. The more vivid the color, the greater the protection; a bright yellow shirt is more protective than a pale one.
About the author: Dr Shricharith Shetty is a Consulting Dermatologist at the Kasturba Medical College & Hospital, Manipal. You can visit his website for more information on skin care.