11 Summer Skin Concerns—and How to Solve Them, According to Derms
Sun Damage Is Cumulative
"I grew up in the '70s in Bakersfield, California. Our summers were very hot, and we all sunbathed poolside with baby oil and spent hours baking in the sun. I had plenty of bad burns in my childhood and remember my nose, back, and shoulders peeling. I'm now 51 and haven't had any cancerous or precancerous skin issues yet. I wear sunscreen—but my arms and legs are showing signs of skin damage, with brown spots."
—Joan, date farmer in Newport Beach, California
The derm says: "Using SPF 50 or higher is fantastic, but you are all your exposures that occur over your lifetime—increasing your risk of premature aging and brown spots."
—Doris Day, MD, dermatologist in New York City and cohost of The Gist on YouTube
Prevent new spots:
Protect Your Pout
"I use SPF lip balm, but it wears off so quickly. I'm worried I'll get skin cancer on the unseen borders of my lips, and then my vigilance will have been for nothing."
—Melanie, Real Simple contributing editor in Springfield, New Jersey
The derm says: "Apply your normal sunscreen to your lips too, and carry an SPF lip balm for frequent reapplication. There are even tinted lip stains with SPF now."
—Elyse Love, MD, dermatologist in New York City
Everyone Needs SPF
"When I was 12, I went to Mexico and came back with my entire body sunburned. I'd never had a sunburn before—I thought it was some sort of crazy skin reaction until my mom told me it was from not wearing SPF. I'm African American, and I think a lot of people with melanin-rich skin think they don't need sunscreen, but that's not true. I apply it daily, especially on my face and neck, and have zero sun spots or wrinkles. I'm glad I learned early."
—Chrystina, marketing executive in Los Angeles
The derm says: "There's a common phrase: 'Black don't crack.' But it does. It's true that darker skin has some natural protection from the sun, but it's nowhere near the SPF recommended for daily use. Luckily, sunscreen has been revolutionized in the past decade. There are plenty of sheer versions that don't leave a white cast on darker skin."
—Elyse Love, MD
A good option for all skin tones:
Get Your Vitamins
"I wear sunscreen on my face nearly every day, but I don't apply it to my body unless I plan to be outside for an extended period of time. I commute to work by bike, and I'm vitamin D deficient, so in the summer I enjoy getting a little sun on my arms (without sunscreen) during my 15-minute ride."
—Molly, editor and outdoor-exercise enthusiast in New York City
The derm says: "I hear that vitamin D excuse a lot, but there's no good evidence that sunscreen leads to a vitamin D deficiency. The reality is, sunscreen isn't perfect and can't filter out all the rays, so you're still getting exposure just being outside. The best way to up your vitamin D level is to eat a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in the vitamin, like salmon and tuna. And maybe take a supplement, depending on your deficiency level."
—Tiffany Libby, MD, dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in Providence, Rhode Island
Boost Your Beach Behavior
"We both love to be outdoors as much as possible, and we film workouts on the beach all the time. We're adamant about wearing sunscreen. There are so many good options these days—we love anything that smells delicious and tropical and doesn't feel greasy."
—Karena and Katrina, fitness trainers and founders of Tone It Up in Manhattan Beach, California
The derm says: "If your daily work requires you to be outside on the beach, it's especially important to wear sunscreen and use sun-protective measures. Make sure you have a reapplication sunscreen ready—lotions give better coverage, but sticks, sprays, and powder formulas are also good for touch-ups. Keep in mind that the sun's rays are typically strongest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., so it would be a good sun-safety measure to schedule your filming around those hours. Try earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon—a sunset shoot!"
—Tiffany Libby, MD
A smart duo:
Curate a Sunscreen Wardrobe
"I'm religious about applying sunscreen if I'm on vacation or outside a lot. I know I should wear it year-round—but I just don't. It's a hassle to put on, and I don't like the smell of it."
—Heather, content strategist in New York City
The derm says: "You should have different sunscreens for different purposes. There are now more options than ever, so it may just take some trial and error before you find one you like for everyday wear. SPF 30 sunscreens are great for the face, and a tinted version can be used instead of foundation. Keep the sticky, higher-SPF formulas for when you'll be in direct sun for more than 15 minutes."
—Leslie Baumann, MD, dermatologist in Miami, Florida
Reapplication Is Key
"Every morning, before I put on my makeup, I use SkinMedica TotalDefense Repair SPF 50 ($68, dermstore.com). During the day, I try to reapply anytime I set foot outside. Since I'm constantly on the go, I always carry another sunscreen in my work bag."
—Nancy, teacher in Miami, Florida
The derm says: "This is excellent—very few people actually reapply. If you want to do so without ruining your makeup, SPF powders are good."
—Elyse Love, MD
Dress to Protect
"I'm a bit of a weekend warrior. I'm in the office all week and then get outside when I can. The thing is, I'm always cold, so when I'm outdoors, I want to be in the sun—even though I know it's best to stay in the shade."
—Lauren, RealSimple.com editor in New York City
The derm says: "The weekend warrior effect is related to how skin responds to intermittent sun exposure, not necessarily the amount of time exposed. If you're planning to spend several hours in the sun, consider sun-protective clothing and hats. They can be more effective than SPF because they provide consistent protection and you don't have to worry about application errors or reapplication."
—Elyse Love, MD
Choose an Eye-Friendly Formula
"I've resisted sunscreen for a long time because it can make my Latina skin look pasty white and crazy greasy. I also hate how it stings my eyes when I'm exercising."
—Leslie, Real Simple editor and outdoor runner in New York City
The derm says: "If you have oily skin, you'll prefer a gel-based SPF rather than a cream. Avobenzone can sting the eyes, so try to avoid that ingredient, and choose a water-resistant formula that won't run."
—Leslie Baumann, MD
A derm favorite:
Save Your Swim
"I wear sunscreen, but I'm not sure about waterproof products. Are they truly useful? If I get in the ocean or pool, how much time do I have before I need to reapply?"
—Dawn, cookbook author in Brooklyn, New York
The derm says: "One of the key terms to look for on the label is 'water-resistant.' This means the product's SPF will be maintained whether you're in or out of the water. Some are water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, and others for up to 80 minutes. You still have to reapply, but this offers adequate sun protection if you are engaging in water activities. As annoying as it may be, it's a good habit—and the most effective method of protection—to reapply every time you get out of the water."
—Tiffany Libby, MD