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The effects of sun damage range from mostly harmless cosmetic ones like sunburn, prematurely-wrinkled skin and brown spots, to more serious results like skin cancer, including melanoma. Sun exposure can hasten all the normal effects of aging. The ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun damage the skin’s elastin, which may not present itself for years, but is the likely explanation behind skin sagging that may appear years before more timely aging effects are evident.
Sun damage results from overexposure to the sun or tanning booths.
The best way to prevent sun damage is to avoid prolonged, unprotected sun exposure resulting in sunburn. Otherwise, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 or higher is recommended by The American Academy of Dermatology. “Broad spectrum” means the sunscreen prevents against both UVA and UVB rays.
Wear sunscreen daily, year-round, applying it 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. If you wear foundation makeup on your face, apply sunscreen underneath or use foundation with sunscreen in it.
Preventing sun damage means avoiding sunburn which, in addition to covering up with clothing and accessories, means preventing UV ray penetration by using sunscreen. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two of the most common natural, mineral ingredients used in sunscreen. They do not absorb into the skin the way chemical sunscreens do which, for one, means a lower risk of hormonal disruption. Sunscreens with chemical ingredients may effectively filter UV rays, but some come with a higher risk of hormonal disruption, according to The Environmental Watch Group (EWG). Commonly found ingredients include octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone, octocrylene, homosalate and oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is cited by EWG as being a UV filter with highest toxicity concerns, followed by 4-MBC and 3-BC, two European UV filters not yet approved by the FDA for use in the US. Octinoxate (octylmethoxycinnamate) is also among the higher risk chemical sunscreen ingredients.
The best solution for sun damage is to avoid sunburn, from outdoor and indoor tanning sources. There are, however, products with ingredients that soothe sun damage by calming the skin, like aloe, nettle and chamomile, as well as antioxidant and botanical ingredients which nourish the skin. Exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid can also serve to lighten sun-damaged areas by gently removing damaged skin.