Don’t block the sun, run free

Strap: Well-known dermatologist Dr Deepali Bhardwaj helps you choose the right sunscreen and diet to battle hot summer days

Summer or no summer, we are always exposed to ultra-violet or UV rays in a tropical country. And, therefore sunscreens are a must-have accessory no matter what the season. These creams are now customised for every skin type and so you may not have any worries while braving the sun outdoors and soaking in Vitamin D. They prevent early signs of ageing, pigmentation, blemishes but more importantly ensure protection against skin cancer.

While UV rays are detected all year-round, the exposure to sun is the maximum in summers. Hence prolonged exposure to it raises the risk of skin cancer and developing vision problems. UV rays are mainly of three types  — the first are the UVA rays, which damage the skin cells and their DNA, the second are UVB rays, which are stronger than UVA rays and can cause sunburn and cancer, and the third the UVC rays, which do not enter the earth’s atmosphere. So what kind of sun protection factor or SPF, which is a shield against sunburn and tanning caused by UVB rays, should you go for? According to Dr Deepali, SPF 15 to SPF 30 is best suited for Indian summers. While your skin may burn or start tanning within 10 minutes of continuous exposure to the sun, using SPF 15 can protect your skin from UVB rays for 15 times longer, extending the protection period to 150 minutes and with SPF 30 for 300 minutes in theory. However, if your lifestyle or work requires you to stay out in the sun for long periods of time, you can also go for SPF 50. It is also important to keep in mind that most over-the-counter SPFs only provide protection against UVB rays, leaving you exposed to the harmful UVA rays. As these rays damage the DNA of skin cells, they are also responsible for premature ageing and wrinkles. So look for a “broad spectrum sunscreen” or “full spectrum sunscreen” written on the packaging of the tube. Broad spectrum sunscreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays and contains zinc and titanium dioxide for a better and long-lasting protection.

Choosing a sunscreen according to your skin type helps in the long run. If you have oily skin, it is important to choose a gel-based sunscreen so it doesn’t make your skin greasier as it melts away. For people with normal to dry skin types, it is advisable to go for something moisturising and thicker in consistency. Waterproof sunscreen lotions will last up to 80 minutes in water and water-resistant sunscreen lotions can last up to 40 minutes in water. Recommended for swimmers. For sensitive skin, avoid aphelia ingredients. Also, test the product on your skin at the back of your ear lobe. If there is no reaction you can continue using it.

While choosing the right sunscreen is important, the secret to maximum protection lies in its proper application. According to Dr Deepali, you should apply a generous amount and a thick layer of sunscreen on all the exposed parts of your skin, including your neck, ears and even lips. Apply at least 15-20 minutes before stepping out in the sun so that the skin pores absorb it completely.

Other ways of protecting your skin from the harmful UVA and UVB rays include covering yourself with scarves and hats, misting your face, using goggles, drinking fluids to balance electrolyte loss and eating right. Watermelon and tomatoes are known for containing lycopene, which absorbs both UVA and UVB rays. Consistent consumption of these two superfoods can help build natural reserves of sunblock in your body. Vegetables like cauliflower have histidine, an alpha-amino acid that stimulates the production of urocanic acid, which absorbs UV radiation. Leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are high on antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin. These have been found to protect against wrinkling, sun damage and even skin cancer. Each of us should consume at least 4-5 litres of water on a daily basis but it is important to pace water consumption to reduce the stress on our kidneys. Staying hydrated also helps regulate body temperature in the summer, helping you combat fatigue, exhaustion and even heat stroke

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