Labor Day is just around the corner but there's still plenty of summer to come. And we need to protect our skin more than ever. That's why we spoke to Noëlle Sherber, MD, a well respected expert in dermatology who has contributed to several publications, including some of our favorite magazines, like Vogue and Marie Claire. We asked Dr. Sherber a few burning questions about skin care during the summer. She has some fantastic advice and expert summer skin care tips below. Soleil Organique: What is the number one thing that people tend to overlook when it comes to protecting their skin? Is there a spot that people too often miss with sunscreen or something else that people need to remember to do? Dr. Noëlle Sherber: I have seen a lot of unusual sunburns on my patients, some of which were truly zebra stripes from people spraying on sunscreen haphazardly and not taking the time to rub it in. Overall, it is so important to treat the lips with broad spectrum UV protection: the sheen from a lip balm, lip gloss, or lipstick without SPF actually acts like a reflector, intensifying UV exposure on the lips! I have seen numerous patients who have chronically dry, rough, flaky lips who assume that their lips are just chapped until I diagnose them with pre-cancerous sun damage of the lips. When caught early this can be treated with a prescription cream, but the best approach is to prevent this by being sure always to wear SPF protection on your lips... and since I really can't just choose one, another spot to be sure to protect with sunscreen is the tops of the ears. I have a young patient who had melanoma develop on the top of her ear and recalls years of outdoor time spent with a visor or baseball cap protecting her face but leaving her ears exposed. Even if you have long hair and wear it down, hair often ends up tucked behind the ears and therefore exposes the tops of the ears to intense unintentional sun exposure.
SO: How much sunscreen does someone need to properly protect themselves? How much should they be prepared to bring with them when going out for a day in the sun? NS: A good way to think about sunscreen application is a teaspoon for the face and a shot glass for the body: I recommend generously coating your skin and letting the sunscreen dry before getting dressed or applying makeup. Some easy math is that 1 ounce of sunscreen should be one full body application. So, a 1 ounce bottle of facial sunscreen should yield 6 applications if you're applying a teaspoon at a time, and a 4 ounce bottle of sunscreen should yield 4 full body applications if you're applying a shot glass sized amount at a time. SO: How often do our readers need to reapply sunscreen when they're at the beach or just enjoying the outdoors? NS: The FDA has recently changed the labeling requirements for sunscreens, and so now labels must note a time limit of 40 minutes of 80 minutes after which the sunscreen is ineffective. A helpful tip is to set a timer on your cellphone when you're at the beach to remind you to reapply. A good general rule is to reapply every 2 hours unless the sunscreen is labeled with a shorter duration. SO: Are there any myths about sunscreen that you think need to be dispelled? NS: Some of my patients have heard that wearing sunscreen will prevent you from getting enough vitamin D. However, the risks of unprotected exposure to the sun in terms of skin cancer and skin aging outweigh the benefits since there are such excellent dietary sources of vitamin D. Additionally, after supermodel Gisele referred to sunscreen as "poison" it sparked a lot of controversy and a lot of questions from my patients. Mineral sunscreens that don't rely on chemical UV filters are a safe approach to sunscreen. Since chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the bloodstream and can be detected in breast milk, I particularly recommend mineral sunscreens for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, or are concerned about exposure to chemical UV filters. SO: For those of our readers who have sunburns, what should they do to treat their skin? NS: The best treatment for a sunburn is topical antioxidants (such as grapeseed extract, green tea extract, or vitamin C) applied as soon as possible after the burn. If you have some Aleve gel caps handy, piercing one and applying the liquid to a sunburn is also beneficial for its anti-inflammatory effect. For more detailed information, I contributed to a recent article in Vogue in which I discussed how best to treat a sunburn ... and sung Soleil Organique's praises for being antioxidant enriched! SO: Aside from applying sunscreen, what should our readers do before and after spending a day in the sun? NS: One great tip is to start applying sunscreen to your face and body for several days prior to being in the sun as the SPF will accumulate in your skin. A recent study demonstrated that applying mineral sunscreen 3 times a day for 5 consecutive days led to a 2.45x increase in SPF when skin was then exposed to the sun. This is very helpful in case you end up missing a spot of sunscreen application or have some sunscreen rub off while swimming as it can give you a longer window of time before you will get a sunburn. It's also a great idea to increase your dietary antioxidants when you'll be spending more time in the sun: watermelon is rich in lycopene and is hydrating, as well, making it the perfect summer snack! SO: For you personally, what are your favorite summer skin care practices? NS: It's fantastic to harness the natural humidity of the summer months by using lots of hydrating ingredients in summer skin care since glycerin and hyaluronic acid will pull water from the air and bind the hydration to your skin. It's also ideal to use antioxidant rich skin care to protect your skin from the UV-induced free radical damage that can contribute to skin cancer as well as lines and wrinkles - antioxidants act like a second line of defense to shore up the skin protective effects of your sunscreen. Finally, it's so important to use a great cleanser in the summer since skin can be oilier than in winter months and some sunscreens can be difficult to remove -- the combination of oil and sunscreen buildup can cause breakouts, so an oil-based balm cleanser can be great for a deep cleanse that doesn't irritate the skin.