August has finally arrived—which, for denizens of the Bay Area, means that the sun should start to make more regular appearances in the weeks ahead. This is great news for those of us who have become tired of the frequently gloomy weather of the past couple of months; but for your skin, summer can be the most dangerous time of the year. Sun exposure is one of the primary factors that lead to skin—especially the sensitive skin on your face—aging prematurely. Sunlight causes skin to wrinkle in two ways: 1) it damages the collagen fibers in your skin, which eventually reduces the elasticity of your skin and causes wrinkles to develop, and 2) its UV rays cause free radicals to enter your body, which can damage your cells and cause collagen breakdown.
So how to shield your skin? Primarily sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher) and protective clothing, but there are other measures you can take as well. For one, keep in mind that the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm, so if you can stay in the shade for at least part of that time, you’ll be much better off (know, though, that water and sand are reflective enough to do damage too, so even under an umbrella you should wear plenty of sunscreen). Drinking lots of water is another excellent way to take care of your skin; sun exposure removes nutrients and fluids from your skin, making it more vulnerable to harm, and hydrating replenishes them. Considering alternative tanning options, like spray-ons and lotions (not tanning beds!), is also a great idea.
A tan may look nice, but protecting your skin from beginning to wrinkle —and worse, cancer—is far more important than looking bronzed. We can’t escape the aging process altogether, of course; but we can slow it down considerably by preventing the sun from doing unnecessary damage.