How to keep your skin healthy, protected and beautiful this summer.

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Summer’s here—cue sunshine, bare skin, and long days spent outside; but along with these perks, warmer temperatures also means the susceptibility of our skin to the sun’s harmful UV rays.

You may be surprised at how quickly unprotected skin can sustain damage, but here’s why. Since 1979, the ozone layer has decreased between four and six per cent per decade over North America (Stats Canada). With continued damage from fossil fuel emissions, the ozone layer becomes less capable of performing what its supposed to be doing: filtering the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays to protect us from UV radiation. By each percentage that the ozone depletes, UV rays increase by one to two per cent at ground level. While this may not sound like much, scientists continue to explore the harmful affects of UVA and UVB rays to our skin. Dr. Diane Wong, MD, owner of Glow Medi Spa, explains: “Much of the negative impact of sun damage may not be seen immediately. For instance, wrinkles and sunspots may be caused by sun damage in your childhood, but may not be apparent until later in our life. This delayed reaction also holds true for skin cancer.” We all covet bronzed, glowy summer skin, but there is a way to safely achieve this aesthetic without aging our skin prematurely or—more importantly—
putting our health at risk.

What does a tan do to the skin?

Our skin and the sun are no strangers, and our bodies instinctively protect themselves. When exposed to the sun, our cells increase the production of melanin, the pigment that gives us the “tan” colour. This process does occur naturally, but strong UV rays can take it a step too far. Dr. Wong explains “Through a process called melanization, the pigment is passed along to the keratinocytes during cell division and the skin becomes a darker colour. Melanin can cluster together in deposits, becoming visible as brown spots.” No one wants brown spots, but melanin does do us good: it functions in the epidermis (upper-most layer) of our skin, and absorbs UV rays in order to protect the dermis (internal layer of skin). It can take a few days for the colour to be noticeable, so don’t get fooled and think you aren’t getting a tan if your skin still looks pale. Scorching your skin in order to create a “base tan” isn’t smart: By the time you can actually see your skin turning brown, plenty of UV damage has already been done. “Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Any tan or change in your skin-colour signifies sun damage,” explains Dr. Wong.

How are UV rays destructive?

The UV rays damage our collagen and elastin, the building blocks of healthy skin, at an accelerated rate. This is why the most noticeable effect from over-exposure is often wrinkles, or a leathery appearance. As we age, our collagen supplies naturally decrease, but the UV rays actively attack, to a point where the DNA is altered and the collagen can no longer reproduce properly. Wrinkles result from the work of free radicals, which are induced by UV rays. Free radicals are single oxygen molecules floating around in our bodies, seeking out other molecules to bind with. They disrupt normal cell function, which can generate wrinkles or, in advanced cases, cause cancer.

Nourish your skin

Our skin will serve us best when it’s nourished. “Vitamin C is an important anti-aging topical agent that can help to protect your skin against environmentally induced aging by acting as an anti-oxidant to the free radicals in the air. Vitamin C can strengthen the skin’s own defenses and boost collagen synthesis to restore skin vitality and provide a healthy and fresh complexion,” notes Dr. Wong. Try starting your morning routine with Yves Rocher Vegetal Purifying Scrub ($18, Yves Rocher stores, yvesrocher.ca), to exfoliate and remove any dead skin. Clarins HydraQuench Moisturizer ($49.50, Clarins counters) offers a light texture and sets quickly, perfect for summer months. If your skin suffers from over-exposure keep hydrated (water is your best friend!), and hydrate your skin, too. A denser moisturizer, like Obagi Medical’s Hydration Facial Moisturizer ($49.90, medical esthetic boutiques) can help to soothe the skin’s irritation while delivering the hydration it needs.

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Protect yourself!

Keep skin protected by consistently applying sunscreen: “Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure and reapplied every two hours or after swimming, sweating, or towel drying. The average adult should use 35 mL for the entire body (equivalent to one shot glass). Most people don’t apply enough,” cautions Dr. Wong. The SPF value of a sunscreen denotes the protection against UVB rays only: “SPF of 15 offers 93 per cent protection, SPF of 30 offers 96.7 per cent protection, and an SPF of 60 offers 97.7 per cent protection. In general, an SPF 30 sunscreen suffices, but it should also be broad-spectrum to protect against UVA rays as well,” explains Dr. Wong. Vichy Capital Soleil Invisibly Hydrating Mist SPF 30 ($29.95, mass retailers) is perfect to bring to the beach for easy re-application. For sensitive skin, try CeraVe Facial Moisturizer SPF 30 ($14.99, mass retailers) in order to avoid breakouts and irritation. TiZo Lotion for Ultra Sensitive Skin SPF 40 ($45.90, medical offices across Canada) also offers great protection to those looking for a chemical-free option.

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Beautify the face

Get your tan on—safely! There are so many great products available to enhance our natural colour, and give us that dewy look without looking orange or streaky. Lori Taylor Davis, Global Pro Lead Artist for Smashbox Cosmetics, suggests that we “look for products that are oil free, or have ‘long-lasting’ claims” for the warmest months. She also recommends opting for primers that are water-based, containing silicone, as “the more hydrated the skin is, the less it will produce oils.” When asked about using foundations versus powders, she was quick to suggest Smashbox’s Liquid Halo Foundation ($48, Sephora, sephora.ca): “Liquid Halo has pigments encapsulated with a special gel, and the pigments aren’t flat, allowing for your skin’s undertone to shine through.” Lori explains that when regular foundation is applied to the face, pigments are stacked on top of one another, masking the skin. “Powders tend to keep you more matte, and summer is a time for a more sun-kissed, radiant look. BB Creams are a good choice for coverage, but if you do use a powder, use a brush rather than a sponge or puff for a lighter application.” Try Smashbox’s Camera-Ready BB Cream SPF 35 ($50, Sephora, sephora.ca) to prime and even skin tone. To add some shimmer to our cheeks, we like Cargo Cosmetics Swimmables Water Resistant Bronzer ($29.99, cargocosmetics.com) for a long lasting wear.

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Show off a bronzed body

Self-tanners for the body can be a bit more trickier to decided on because of the varied results, intensities and textures, but they are a safe way to achieve a beautiful glow all over the body.  We’ve narrowed the options for you to help make it easier. Bioderma Photoderm Self Tanning Spray ($19.95, Murale) is highly moisturizing (for better absorption) and great for sensitive skin. The spray coats evenly (it’s not a drippy mess!), and builds your tan gradually. On the other hand, Vita Liberata Rapid Tan Mousse ($43, Sephora, sephora.ca) is better suited for special events, as you can notice your tan darkening in as quickly as three hours. You can also control how rich you want your colour to be: rinse off the guide colour in one hour for a sun-kissed glow, two hours for a golden-bronze look, or three hours for a deep tan. It’s easy to see where the guide-colour has been applied, and the liquid dries quickly as not to stain your clothing or towels.

Amy Somerville, Makeup Artist, Esthetician and Educator, Stogryn Sales for Jane Iredale, for St. Tropez swears by St. Tropez tanning products. “The three main complaints about self tanners are odour, orange colour and streaky development. St Tropez’s truly professional quality enables it to be used on the in runway, in film and television.” Therefore their attention to all of the above concerns is paramount,” she explains. If you aren’t sure which colouring is the best fit, “St Tropez also produces a wash-off product line, which can be used to intensify self tanners for a trial period just to help you see what the colour will look like,” explains Somerville. We recommend trying a St. Tropez trial kit, with a body polish (exfoliator), original self tan lotion, and moisturizer ($32, Sephora and sephora.com)

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Prolong & Treat

To keep your skin looking and feeling its best after a long summer, remember to exfoliate. We love Trinitae’s Mineral Dead Sea Salt Scrub ($16.95, nubitrading.com) for its gentle grains and fresh mandarin orange scent. After your shower, try Marc Anthony’s Hydrating Coconut Oil spray ($9.99, Shoppers Drug Mart) to moisturize your skin. The coconut scent reminds us of the beach—and you won’t have to get sandy again!

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If you are concerned about the damage your skin has sustained or you’ve noticed dark spots, it’s best to see a dermatologist or qualified physician. A common treatment for sunspot damage is Intense Pulsed Light therapy (IPL). Performed at most medical skin clinics, Dr. Wong explains “through thermal heating with IPL or lasers, the melanin deposits are disrupted and slough off in about seven days, usually with no downtime, scarring, or much discomfort.” Dr. Wong also explains another option: “One of the newest treatments is a Super 3-in-1 Facial called OxyGeneo which exfoliates, oxygenates, and infuses brightening ingredients (kojic acid, azelaic acid, and retinol) into the skin. Pigmentation gradually fades and there is no downtime.” OxyGeneo treatments cost $150 at Glow Medi Spa, and other treatment locations can be found at geneo.ca. For your skin-health, its best to have any dark spots checked out by a medical-professional.