We've been hotly anticipating the warmer temps and outdoor activities that summer brings -- but all that sun and heat can be damaging to your body if you don't take proper precautions.
So before you hit the beach or even just go outside for a stroll, here are five things you need to know about how summer is aging you and what you can do to protect yourself.
1. The sun can cause photoaging to your skin.
According to one poll, only around 30 percent of women in the U.S. said they put on sunscreen everyday.And don't use your office job as an excuse. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, over time, exposure to the sun causes photoaging. UVA rays in particular are responsible for causing visible aging -- things like wrinkles, fine lines and age spots-- by breaking down collagen and other important fibers that keep your skin plump and line-free. In fact, one study said that about 80 percent of visible signs of aging on your face are caused by sun exposure.
And it's a common misconception that if you spend most of your day indoors, you don't need sunscreen. Just walking to and from your car, even on a cloudy day, brings the risk of damaging UV rays that can still break through the cloud cover and age your skin.
Play it safe by using an SPF of 15 or higher, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends. Try to find one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, try to get a waterproof variety that will hold up with sweating. And make sure to reapply every two hours, more often if you're in and out of the water. And don't forget to apply to your hands, neck, etc. -- not just your face!
2. Air conditioning can dry out your skin.
There's nothing like feeling a blast of cool air when you step indoors, but your AC unit actually is pulling moisture from the air to chill the room. The dryness in the air can dehydrate your skin, giving it a a crepey, dull appearance. Prolonged exposure can even cause flaking and itching. It's even worse if you're sitting close to a vent. And temperature changes, like when you step inside from the heat to a cool office or home, can irritate the skin too, making skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis worse.
Remedy this by staying hydrated inside and out. Drink plenty of fluids to keep your body functioning properly -- that's roughly nine cups for women and 13 cups for men each day, according to the Institute for Medicine. Also, make sure to keep moisturizer with you at all times so you can reapply throughout the day, giving your skin a barrier from the dryness. Try a cool-mist humidifier if you find hydrating your skin and body isn't enough.
3. Sun and swimming can damage your hair.
Chlorine from dips in the pool and sun damage are very common in summertime. Sunlight breaks down the fibers in your hair, much like it does in the skin, leading to more split ends, rougher cuticles and breakage. And anyone who swims often or swims with dyed hair knows the havoc that pools can do to the condition and color of your hair.
Protect your strands by wearing a hat as often as you can -- this will also protect your face and keep you cool, as a bonus. If you have any visible areas of scalp, don't forget to apply sunscreen to those too, as your scalp can get burned as well. Avoid heat-styling and give your hair a break over the summer (yes, we know what humidity does to your hair). If you must heat style, try to look for products that offer UV protection to at least mitigate the damage.
4. Squinting in the sun can give you wrinkles around your eyes.
Those dreaded crow's feet could appear quicker if you don't shield your eyes. Any repeated facial expression can form fine lines and wrinkles -- like how you get laugh lines when your face creases when you smile. So when you go out in the sun and naturally squint to protect your eyes, the repeated movement will over time lead to lines around your eyes.
The fix is simple. Wear your sunglasses to prevent squinting -- and try to get a pair that blocks UV rays. The added bonus in this is that you'll protect the thin, delicate skin around your eyes from sun exposure as well. Or, if your sunnies aren't nearby, grab a hat.
5. Flip-flops can hurt your feet in the long run.
Who doesn't love the easy breezy feel of flip-flops in the summer? But beware if you're wearing them for long periods or long distances. The lack of support and grip can lead to an array of problems with repeated wear, including tendinitis, hammer-toes, bunions and eventually pain in your hips, back , ankles and knees. Yikes. They don't seem so cute anymore, do they?
Try to limit flip-flop wear to when you're at the pool or of course, using public showers. Just don't make them your everyday essential shoe, podiatrist Jackie Sutera told The Huffington Post in 2013. If you must, find a pair that fits your foot properly without slipping off, has a thicker sole to provide more support, and has a style with more straps or ankle support.
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