5 Ways To Repair Sun Damage To Your Skin & Hair, Now That Summer Is Officially Over
It may still be August but I think it's safe to say that summer has well and truly left the UK. You can't moan because the country got more than its fair share of heat this year. Along with all the good stuff that came from constant sun, there were a few downsides too — especially when it came to skincare and haircare. But can you even repair sun damage to your skin and hair, or are you destined to a life of dry skin and brittle hair forever?
I'm happy to tell you that much of the damage is reversible. Over the past couple of months, you may have noticed everything from skin discolouration to dry patches and hair that just never feels the way it should.
All of this is down to a) us not protecting our skin and hair properly, and b) those pesky UV rays. Aside from visiting an expensive dermatology clinic and having all traces of damage removed by lasers, it seems like there isn't much you can do to bring your body's exterior back to full health.
However, experts have revealed the secret ingredients to look out for in skin and haircare products that will say bye bye to sun damage and hello to a radiant you.
1. More Sunscreen
I know what you're thinking: "The sun has gone, so why do I need to put sun cream on?" Well, cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Neal Schultz explains exactly why. "Whenever you start protecting yourself from the sun, you will stop the process of additional damage and start to reverse, to some extent, what you've already accumulated," he told Women's Health.
All of us have fallen under the spell that only visible sun requires sunscreen. And it's just not true. A dermatologist once told me that you should be wearing factor 30 every single day. Even when it's raining. I can't say that I took her advice on board but looking at all the freckles that have sprouted up on my face this summer, I should probably start.
2. Get To Grips With Exfoliating
The sun may give you the glow that you just can't fake but it is also a major cause of dry and dull skin. Over time, dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin (known as the stratum corneum) will begin to build up, resulting in a blotchy complexion.
Typical exfoliation using a scrub or body brush can help but the experts recommend going for the scary-sounding chemical option in order to dissolve dead skin cells. Look for products containing an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) like glycolic acid, citric acid, or lactic acid. These coax the skin into producing more collagen and elastin, helping the renewal process move along.
"Alpha hydroxy acids work best in a concentration of 5 to 8 percent," Dr. Heather Brannon told She Knows. "Unfortunately, cosmetic manufacturers are not required to provide concentration information on the label. As a general rule of thumb, having the AHA listed as the second or third ingredient on the list makes it more likely it contains the proper concentration."
3. Fade Dark Spots
When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time in the sun. And now, I have quite a few freckles. Coincidence? I think not. I once went through a phase of trying to pick my freckles off but that did not work. Luckily, I am at peace with my freckles now but find bigger brown marks, which are a direct result of the sun, harder to deal with.
This discolouration is your skin's reaction to excessive UV radiation. Your face essentially has enough of the sun and overproduces melanin, causing hyperpigmentation that is pretty damn stubborn.
If you want to lighten or brighten your skin, there are several ingredients to look out for. Kojic acid, vitamin C, and even things like soy or liquorice can help, dermatologist Dr. Michael Lin told Bustle. Note that these will only fade the surface damage and that an active ingredient such as retinol is needed to go deeper into the skin.
4. Switch Up Your Hair Routine
No matter the texture, thickness, or colour of your hair, the sun will find a way to wreak havoc on those beautiful locks. "Increased sun exposure can break down the proteins of the hair, causing damage to the surface of the hair itself," L'Oreal Professionel artist Travis Parker explained to Byrdie.
If you've had enough of weak and lacklustre hair, you can simply pay a visit to your hairdresser (or do it yourself if you're handy with a pair of scissors). Parker adds that a little snip snip action will remove "the most damaged areas."
However, you'll also need to pay attention to the roots. Opt for a hair mask containing the likes of keratin, lipids, and ceramides to give your tresses the boost they need. Alternatively, stay away from any shampoo containing sulphate. Hello! reports that this common ingredient only serves to strip your hair of its natural oils, potentially causing further dryness.
5. Get Creative
A lot of the ingredients that are beneficial to sunburnt skin are also beneficial to sun-damaged hair. Thinking about it, that makes total sense. Aloe vera, reports Healthline, contains decent doses of vitamins A, C, and E. These "promote cell turnover, healthy cell growth, and shiny hair" so worth a try mixing a concoction for your head.
As Livestrong states, green tea may also help. You don't have to literally pour tea on your head but experts believe that the panthenol found in the tea can strengthen weak hair and its antioxidant-rich formula can protect cells and encourage healthy growth.
If you've never tried any of the above ingredients before, it's always worth doing a 24 hour patch test to check for any potential allergies. When you're trying to fix damage, the last thing you want is to cause more.