We all love the summer sun, but by now you’ve heard the mantra: There’s no such thing as a healthy tan. That’s why we caught up with Nettie Mueth of Medical Aesthetics RX, and asked how we can enjoy our fun in the sun—without damaging our skin.
We know we’re supposed to wear sunscreen and a hat, but what haven’t people heard about sun protection?
Hats are wonderful to wear, but it has to have a large enough brim to cover the whole face. Visors and ball caps are only going to cover to the bridge of nose and upper cheeks, but the whole lower part of your face also needs to be protected. Also, most sun hats for women are wide-weaved hats with holes—that’s not good. You want a solid hat that won’t let any sun through.
Sunscreen needs to be worn all year round, even in the winter time. The sun’s rays actually will penetrate haze or fog, so the only time you shouldn’t be wearing sunscreen is when it’s so dark you need a flashlight. You also need to re-apply almost every two hours—unless you’re sweating or getting wet, then it should be sooner. Plus, the sun’s rays are stronger when they penetrate through glass, so you get more UV damage when you’re driving. The same is true when light bounces off sand, water, concrete and snow. When you tan, your body is actually protecting itself. To help the skin do its job, you should wear a minimum of 30 SPF, and it should be broad spectrum so it covers UVA and UVB rays.
Do you recommend using a moisturizer or makeup with built-in SPF, or a separate product?
You really do need a separate product, because most makeup has a 15 SPF. That’s not going to do it for you, you need at least at 30 and reapply regularly. The other thing to worry about is the lips: Lip gloss will reflect sun and make the lips more susceptible to burning. Find a lip gloss or balm with an SPF.
How much sunscreen should you apply?
For the whole body, you’re looking at about an ounce, about a quarter-size on your face. You should also wait at least 30 minutes after you apply it to go out so it penetrates and protects your skin. Even with that, it still helps to avoid the sun in peak hours—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
What else should be part of your routine to protect from sun damage?
In a daily routine, sunscreen on the face and neck should be an automatic thing. Also, prior to using sunscreen and your foundation, if you use a serum with Vitamin C or green tea extract, it will actually help buffer against the elements. It works together with the sunscreen. Plus Vitamin C not only has antioxidants, it’s also a skin lightener and helps eliminate bacteria that lead to breakouts.
Do after-sun products mitigate the damage at all?
No, it’s more of a comfort thing. Aloe will be your go-to if you’re sunburned: It takes heat out of skin. Most of the products also have moisturizers because a sunburn dehydrates the skin. But it’s not going to make the damage go away.