A healthy skin care routine is essential at any age. To know how to best care for your skin – the largest organ of the body – it’s important to understand the impact of sun exposure. 

Jeffrey McBride, MD, with OU Health’s department of dermatology and dermatopathology in Oklahoma City, says sunlight has a special effect on our health. 

“A few minutes of natural sunlight can stimulate the production of vitamin D, a vital component in keeping our body, including our immune system, healthy,” says McBride. “However, too much of the sunlight’s ultraviolet rays can burn the skin, speed aging of the skin, increase sun spots and wrinkles, and increase the risk of skin cancer.”

Be Wary of the Sun

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, even one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life. 

If a child is going to be outside in the direct sunlight for 30 minutes or more, McBride says sun protection should be used. He recommends a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and it should be re-applied every hour.

“Sunscreens are either ‘chemical-’ or ‘mineral-based’ in their components,” says McBride. “Chemical sunscreens absorb the sunlight, whereas mineral sunscreens mostly reflect it away from the skin. I recommend mineral sunscreens to my patients because they contain ‘physical blockers’ such as zinc oxide, which blocks both UV-A and UV-B light, preventing different spectra of light entering the skin to do damage.”

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Many of us often work to achieve a perfect ‘summer glow,’ but McBride says you shouldn’t endure a sunburn to achieve a tan. 

“Excessive sun exposure over time causes a change in the skin called ‘solar elastosis’ in which the actual ‘matrix’ of the skin changes, resulting in noticeably aged skin,” he says. “In general, if a teenager or young adult has a good skin moisturizing routine, a good sun protection routine, and no other unhealthy habits, their skin will retain more youthful features as an older adult.”

Skin Care

To moisturize your skin, McBride recommends beginning with a non-fragranced, gentle cleanser, along with lukewarm water, that will not over-dry the skin. Examples include products such as Dove for Sensitive Skin, Cetaphil, CeraVe, Neutrogena, Eucerin/Aquaphor or Vanicream.

“Cleansers are highly personal choices, as what feels good to one person’s skin may irritate another person’s skin,” he says. “In general, I always recommend avoiding heavily-fragranced cleansers, as these added chemicals can cause skin irritation and reaction in people with sensitive skin types. Once the skin is cleansed, pat dry with a towel before applying moisturizer. For those with sensitive skin, make sure towels are washed in detergents that are labeled as ‘free and clear,’ which helps exclude the irritating effects of fragrances and other harsh chemical components. Then, follow up with a moisturizer such as CeraVe, Eucerin, Vanicream, or even ointment-based moisturizers for dry skin types, including Aquaphor or regular Vaseline.”

Anti-Aging

Among the many ‘anti-aging’ products on the market, serums have become increasingly popular. 

“Most ‘serum’ products contain Vitamin C as a main component,” says McBride. “For example, the CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C serum contains 10% pure Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals, along with ceramides which help restore the skin barrier, hyaluronic acid, which is important in tissue hydration (and the main component of cosmetic dermal fillers), and other vitamins such as Vitamin B5 that also help with skin hydration. I recommend that patients do their own research into various products and try some of the ones in which they are interested to determine what they like the best.”