Staying Sunny

It’s that time of year… the days are getting shorter and it’s getting dark sooner. Although its presence is diminishing, that big yellow fireball in the sky provides plenty of benefits:

  • Regular sun exposure can ease depression and lethargy — when sunlight becomes sparse, some doctors recommend light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Sunlight kills infections in your body and on your skin
  • Vitamin D provided by sunlight helps build strong bones.

But be sure you take precautions:

  • Ultraviolet rays are most intense between 10 AM and 3 PM — experts advise against prolonged exposure during this time
  • Excessive sunlight can lead to sunburn and increased risk of skin cancers; lather up with sunblock, sunscreen, and a layer of common sense
  • Avoid tanning beds — one analysis found skin cancer risk increased by 75% for those who began using tanning beds before age 30.

Pucker Up

Your increased exposure to elements like sun, saltwater, and chlorine can wreak havoc on your skin, especially the sensitive layer over your kisser.

Soothe those cracked, chapped lips with these moisturizing ideas:

  • Stay hydrated. Just because you’re swimming in water doesn’t mean you’re drinking enough. In fact, it can be harder to gauge your fluid loss when you’re soaking. Make sure you’re getting enough H2O by checking your urine color — pale yellow or clear means you’re probably hydrated; dark yellow means you need to drink more.
  • Keep nutritional balance. Vitamin B and omega–3 fatty acids help the body resurface and moisturize skin cells. Eat more leafy greens, broccoli, oily fish (like salmon), avocados, beans, and sunflower seeds.
  • Try home remedies. For external relief, apply cucumbers, honey, or coconut milk to your lips, especially before bed. The therapeutic qualities have been found to reduce inflammation, close up cracks, and relieve discomfort. And breastfeeding moms might be surprised to learn that their own milk can help heal chapped lips. Gentle exfoliation can help remove dry patches, but be careful not to overdo it and irritate the sensitive mouth tissue.

Be aware that severe cracks and sores may indicate a more serious health problem, such as an allergy or even diabetes. See a doctor if symptoms persist.

Healing Beams

For years, experts have warned against the dermatological consequences of sunbathing without adequate protection against cancer–causing rays. And while UVA radiation is the greatest culprit in malignant melanoma, studies now show that too little sunlight can actually raise disease risks.

Evidence suggests that vitamin D, delivered primarily through solar energy, guards against many conditions — including kidney, colon, prostate, and breast cancers — and promotes overall immune function. Some studies reveal a connection between vitamin D deficiencies and allergies, asthma, autoimmune disorders, and mental illness.

While the research is enlightening, it shouldn’t overshadow common sense. Bask wisely with these helpful hints:

  • Have your vitamin D blood levels checked — this helps determine how much additional sunlight or supplements you may need.
  • Start gradually. If you’ve been cloistered from the sun, spend a few minutes outside before 10 AM to limit intensity.
  • Expose your arms and legs. Experts believe your skin needs sun on more than just face and hands to reap the therapeutic benefits of vitamin D conversion.
  • The naturally darker your skin, the longer you need in the sun. Build up to about 20 minutes/day 3 times a week if you’re fair–skinned and up to about 2 hours if your complexion is darker. Your best assessment tool is redness — once you burn, vitamin D synthesis ends and damage begins.

Save Your Skin

Get out there and enjoy sunny days when you can — but protect your skin, even when it’s cloudy. You can dramatically reduce your risk of skin cancer by practicing simple sun–safety habits every day.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the most common culprit when it comes to melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society. In addition to avoiding unprotected exposure to sunlight, skip the tanning lamps and beds — they’re a known risk for skin cancer.

The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention makes it easy to remember how to protect yourself — and your kids — from UV rays. They recommend thinking Slip, Slop, Slap, & Wrap® whenever you go outdoors:

Slip on a shirt. The less skin exposed, the lower your risk.

  • Slop on sunscreen. Choose a product with SPF 30. Apply it at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapply it every 2 hours or sooner as needed. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen — go ahead, slop it on!
  • Slap on a hat. Wear a wide–brimmed hat to protect your scalp and face.
  • Wrap on sunglasses. Protect your eyesight by preventing long–term exposure to UV rays — which can lead to serious eye problems such as cataracts or macular degeneration. Select sunglasses that block 99%–100% of UV rays.

Let the Sun Shine Down on Me

Every time you step outdoors, you’re taking in more than just fresh air — you’re also getting your daily dose of vitamin D. When exposed to sunlight, your body naturally generates the potent nutrient that helps you absorb calcium, which maintains bone density and growth. Plus, it keeps the nervous system in top shape and regulates the immune system. But basking in rays for 10 minutes a day isn’t the only way to take in this heart–healthy vitamin:

  • Get its goodness from foods: Salmon, mackerel, mushrooms, beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese contain vitamin D; other products — like milk, cereal, breads, and juices — can be fortified with it. Indulging in a breakfast rich in vitamin D is a great way to begin the day.
  • Pop a supplement: Ask your doctor to assess your vitamin D levels with your next blood test. They can recommend whether you need a supplement and how much to take each day.

Studies have linked deficiencies in the sunshine supplement to breast/colon/prostate cancer, heart disease, depression, and weight gain. For more information, visit Webmd.

Just Say Glow

7 simple steps for beautiful winter skin

1. Keep it Moving

There’s a reason your skin has a healthy, rosy glow in the summer: Warmer weather means more activity outdoors – and more exercise means better circulation to all of your body, including your skin. Make sure to stay active as the weather cools down, whether indoors or out.

2. Sunscreen is Not Just for Summer

Winter sun (especially with the added reflection of snow) can damage your skin. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to your face and any other exposed body parts before you head out, and reapply if you’re outside a long time.

3. Warm Up to Showers

A nice hot bath sounds delightful, but hot water is dehydrating. Turn down the temperature and switch from baths to shorter showers. And make sure to use a moisturizing body wash like Olay Ultra Moisture. It has more than a jar of Olay Moisturizers in every bottle, to keep skin soft and smooth.

4. Get Handy

Did you know that the skin on your hands is thinner and has fewer oil glands than other parts of your body? Plus, you use your hands for super-drying activities like cooking, cleaning, and dishwashing. Give your hands a hand: Wear gloves outside, rubber gloves when cleaning, and use extra-strength moisturizer, especially at night.

5. Fancy Footwork

Your feet suffer in the winter weather, too. Look for a more substantial foot lotion and try sleeping with a thick layer of moisturizer topped with cotton socks for some extra-strength help.

6. Smooth Operator

To go for the glow, you’ve got to remove the dead skin cells that create a dull, dry look. Exfoliate year-round to reveal righter, younger skin. But in winter, use a gentler exfoliating cleanser instead of a grittier scrub. Another benefit: Exfoliation helps your daily moisturizer penetrate and hydrate skin.

7. Do More to Get More

Dry winter air requires more frequent moisturizing. Find a product that works harder for you and use it more often.