How to protect your skin from sunshine

We all know by now that applying SPF before stepping into the sun is an absolute must. But few of us remember — or even know — that we should be treating our skin after sun exposure, too. 

And not just on vacations or when you’ve burned: 

“Even low levels of UV light can affect the skin, causing both skin-barrier disruption and inflammation, in addition to damage to collagen and skin cells’ DNA,” says Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai. Besides sunscreen, “whether you get a bad sunburn or not, you should make sure to use after-sun moisturizers.”

Point taken. We talked to four dermatologists and one aesthetician about the products they trust for treating post-sun skin. We also double-checked with them about how to treat serious burns, and in addition to the products below, they advise cold compresses and ibuprofen. “On smaller sunburned areas, you can also layer on hydrocortisone cream,” says Jordana Mattioli, a New York–based aesthetician. For everything else, here’s what to get to help angry skin to chill out.

Sun Bum Cool Down Hydrating After Sun Lotion

Both Zeichner and Ellen Marmur, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York, gave this product their stamp of approval. Zeichner says Sun Bum’s unscented lotion is a good option not only for its soothing and hydrating formula, but also because “it’s a totally natural product,” and prevents peeling to boot.

Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm

“This balm helps to minimize postburn peeling and can be used on the face and body, which makes it great for those looking for a simple after-sun routine,” says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, director of cosmetic dermatology at South Shore Medical Center. And no need to worry about bacne — her one-and-done fave is also oil-free and non-acnegenic.

DETERMINE YOUR RISK PROFILE

There’s no way to accurately predict whose skin is most likely to show premature signs of aging or who is more likely to develop skin cancer, says Dee Anna Glaser, MD, associate professor of dermatology at St. Louis University School of Medicine.

You should schedule a skin exam with your dermatologist at least once a year after the age of 40. If skin cancer runs in your family, you may want to start earlier than that. In addition, it’s important to do self-exams once a month. Signs of trouble include:

  • Small pearly white bumps, or sores on the skin that bleed and don’t heal.
  • Red, scaly bumps that resemble a scar and have a depression in the middle.
  • Dark spots that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, have more than one color, and are bigger than the size of a pencil eraser. These spots may be flat or elevated.

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