Summer Skin Care

Sunscreen on the beach
Sunscreen on the beach

Summer Skin Care

Don't forget sunscreen

By Mary Lou Brink

I might be rushing it a bit, but heck July 1 is Friday.

July is my favorite month ... not only because my birthday is in July, but it also brings back memories of long summer days spent at the pool or having a picnic with family and friends at the park.

July also brings old-time favorites such as going to the Allen County 4-H Fair and Three Rivers Festival. For others it means the breeze blowing across Crooked Lake is finally warm. Some believe longer days provide time for nine more holes at Autumn Ridge. What do all these summer past-times have in common? Sun exposure.

You read correctly. That “healthy glow” we get from being outdoors might make us look fit and trim, but we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by encouraging wrinkles or worse yet -- skin cancer. I won’t force you to look at photos like they did in school, but we know it isn’t pretty.

I’ll admit that I am not the best (but I’m not the worst, either) at following skin-care guidelines. I go to bed with makeup on sometimes, and occasionally I will leave the house, on purpose, without wearing sunscreen to get “some color.” But one thing I am firm about is having skin-care items organized, which makes it easier to follow the rules -- when you choose to do so.

Sunscreen, lip balm and bug spray aren’t just for packing away in the kids’ camp backpacks. The products should be handy throughout the home, cottage and office.

Mary Partee and Jackie Boone-Morales, local skin experts at Fort Wayne Dermatology Consultants Inc., agree. Most people think the lion’s share of skin damage comes from lying in the sun, which is true. But, Partee and Boone-Morales say the day-in and day-out exposure is what can be most damaging over time.

Studies by the American Dermatological Association show sun exposure is responsible for at least two-thirds of melanomas. Intermittent sun exposure during recreational activities also is linked closely to melanoma, the most serious skin cancer. The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma are both results of chronic exposure to sunlight.

With today’s light formulas and high SPF content in many products (from makeup to bug spray), keeping skin healthy is easier than before -- if you follow a few simple rules.

No. 1: Getting together products so they will be used.

For example, we keep all of our sunscreens in a mesh bag that stays on the boat.

We also keep another set of sunscreens, a bug spray and a lip balm that include sunscreen, sitting next to our sunglasses in our mud-room. The theory is that we remember to grab sunglasses before heading outside, so we’ll remember the sunscreen, too. Most of the time it works.

No. 2: Apply early. Apply often.

“A good rule of thumb is putting on sunscreen a half-hour before you go outside,” Boone-Morales said.

It’s so easy to forget. That’s why manufacturers of skin-care products (such as facial moisturizers, after-shave balms, and makeup) have sunscreen already built in. Forgetting isn’t an excuse any more!

But if you aren’t wearing products with built-in protection, then Partee added people should reapply sunscreen “every couple hours,” and even more often if swimming or sweating. Partee and Boone-Morales recommend using an SPF 30 or higher.

It’s easy to lose track of time when boating, reading by the pool, or walking around the Three Rivers Festival. An easy way to remember to reapply is to link it to an event. For example: Finish a book chapter; time to reapply. Ride three rides at the festival midway; time to reapply. Finish nine holes of golf; time to reapply.

Keeping trial-size bottles of sunscreen, bug spray, or a lip balm in your jacket pocket, golf bag or pool/beach tote is a great way to remember, too. But don’t store items in hot places such as glove boxes long term. Studies show that lengthy exposure to heat will break down the products’ effectiveness.

The goal here is to have at hand what you need when you need them.

No. 3: Past its born on date.

Replace your sunscreen every two to three years, says Dr. Lawrence Gibson at the Mayo Clinic. Most sunscreens have an expiration date stamped onto the label, side or bottom.

In addition, excessive heat or sun exposure can cause the chemicals in the sunscreen to degrade, so replace items sooner if they’ve been left in the sun or stored in a glove box. To keep your sunscreen as close to new as possible, store it in a dry spot at room temperature with the lid tightly fastened.

“Keep in mind, if you use sunscreen frequently and liberally, a bottle of sunscreen shouldn't last you (three years). A liberal application is 1 ounce — the amount in a shot glass — to cover all exposed parts of the body,” he says on the clinic’s Web site.

Makeup should be replaced more frequently.

“Older makeup inhibits bacteria growth,” Partee explained, and can cause all sorts of skin problems or eye infections. How many of you have a makeup bag (or two) full of old cosmetics? Be honest! Why are you keeping it? Clutter, clutter, clutter …

In reality, the shelf life depends on the type of makeup. How to tell? If you can’t remember when you bought it, it’s probably time to go. If it has a bad odor, get rid of it! It’s just taking up valuable space any way. According to Eva Gizowska on iVillage, she recommends pitching the following items in these time frames: concealer: 12-18 months; blush: two years; eye shadow: two years; liquid eyeliner: three-six months; mascara: three months; and lipstick: two years.

All in all, sunscreen is a great protector, if kept handy and fresh, but protection also should include avoiding sunshine during peak hours (10 a.m.-2 p.m.), wearing protective clothing and hats. Most important? Skip the intentional baking. Enough said.

I know there is a lot to think about when taking care of your skin in the summer. So whether your favorite thing is festival-hopping, boating, golfing, or just sitting outdoors, let’s remember to grab our fresh and readily available sunscreen – then use it.

Posted Wed, 06/29/2011 - 1:50 pm