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While we all know by now that sun protection is important all year round, the lead-up to summer is the perfect time to re-evaluate the most important part of your skincare routine.  Even putting aside the serious concerns of pre-skin cancer and skin cancer, being careless in the sun is the quickest route to looking aged – with uneven skin tone, wrinkles and leathery, sagging skin all side effects of the sun’s radiation.   Here – with the help of Dr Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, NYC dermatologist and clinical attending at New York University Langone and Mount Sinai Hospital – we focus on the skincare arsenal needed to properly protect and repair your face from its harsh effects. (Spoiler: you’re probably going to need a lot more sunscreen.)

Pre(vention) Game

While daily sunscreen is obvious, it’s also a step most of us are doing wrong. ‘Unfortunately, most people not only don’t apply enough sunscreen but also don’t reapply consistently. Therefore, the amount of UV protection you’re receiving from sunscreen is actually lower in practice than what’s on the label,’ shares Dr Levin, who suggests a tablespoon of broad-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection, applied every few hours. ‘Broad-spectrum sunscreen also doesn’t provide enough protection against free radicals so look for a sunscreen with antioxidants or apply an antioxidant serum before the application of sunscreen,’ she says. And while photosensitivity is not a universal reaction, those who want to be careful should reserve some of their skincare products only for their evening routine. Anything ‘made with alpha hydroxy acids, beta hydroxy acids, and retinols or retinoids, which exfoliate and turnover the skin cells, can make the skin more sensitive to the sun’, according to Dr Levin. 

(Sun) Damage Control

Topical brightening and anti-ageing ingredients – including retinoids, vitamin C, vitamin E and chemical exfoliators like alpha hydroxy acid and glycolic acid – are skincare mainstays when it comes to reversing the signs of sun damage. For those specifically concerned with uneven skin tone, a spot treatment made with hydroquinone – ‘the gold standard for lightening dark spots for the past 50 years’ – can work as a powerful inhibitor of a key enzyme that triggers melanin production, according to Dr Levin.  For a more abrasive sun damage repair plan, there are in-office treatments available that combat wrinkles, discolouration and freckles, along with turning over the skin to create new, healthier skin cells. While you should start with a personalised diagnosis to find out what works best for you, Dr Levin lists chemical peels, resurfacing laser treatments (such as Halo and Fraxel DUAL), light-based therapies (popular ones include intense pulsed light and broadband light) and micro-needling (paired with topical treatments such as trichloroacetic acid and platelet-rich plasma) as options.

Now you can enjoy the beach...

Load up your summer skincare arsenal with products that protect and repair from the sun.