The running joke on Reddit skincare communities like /r/AsianBeauty and /r/SkincareAddiction is that the true skincare addict develops an extreme aversion to the sun. Humorous posts featuring beachgoers swaddled head to toe in towels and wraps are common, especially in the summer months. But do you really have to sacrifice the feeling of the sun on your skin if you want to prevent the wrinkles and sagging that UV exposure can cause?
Nope! But you should definitely practice thorough sun protection and consider some post-sun extra repair. I live about a mile from the beach and am not about to sacrifice afternoons at the ocean for the sake of my future skin, especially since I don’t believe I need to. Here’s how I spend hours out in the sun without developing sunspots or a tan, which both indicate UV damage. I realize this post might have been more helpful a few months ago, at the beginning not near the end of summer. Sorry. If it helps, the sun really is a skin-destroyer year-round. Does that help? Don’t start looking into forest cave real estate yet.
Antioxidants to reduce UV-induced oxidative damage
The primary mechanism by which UV exposure causes visible skin aging is oxidative stress. Essentially, UV exposure generates free radicals in the skin, causing damage that accumulates over time and results in premature and excessive sagging and wrinkling.
Antioxidants should form a key part of your defense against oxidative stress, especially when you know you’ll be risking more of it than usual. Antioxidants are actually the main reason my skincare routine can get so long: I like to give my skin a good, varied diet of them on a day-to-day basis, to cover my bases against as many free radicals as possible.
My skin’s diet is way more varied than my actual diet, unless different flavors of sherbet count as different types of food. Each of my antioxidant-packed products delivers a dose of something different. The key players in Tosowoong’s Timeshift Serum are various yeast ferments. The DIY serums to the left and right of the Timeshift Serum provide vitamin C, vitamin E, sea kelp, green tea, and sea buckthorn oil. And the little jar at the front is a decant of seven sample foils of CHICA Y CHICO’s Astazet 4.0, which contains 4% of a really exciting but little-known antioxidant, astaxanthin.
Astaxanthin hasn’t been on my radar for very long, but the moment I noticed it, I started paying close attention. Redditor /u/Eletas wrote up a fabulous introduction to the marine carotenoid, which is a powerful antioxidant in either topical or ingested forms. In fact, after reading that a Japanese study found that ingested astaxanthin produces visible skin improvements in very short time frames, I’ve recently started taking 4mg of astaxanthin a day as well. I definitely laid the Asta-Z on a bit thickly today, knowing that I’d be out in the sun for hours.
Sunscreen as your first line of defense
Of course, antioxidants alone won’t be enough to protect your skin from UV radiation. Sunscreen should always be your first line of defense against photoaging and skin cancer, and it’s especially critical on days when you know you’ll be basking in those gloriously bright, warm, wonderful, horrible hellrays.
I would absolutely love to be able to slop my Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ all over every inch of my body every day, but sadly, the 50ml tube is a little small for that. I did it for about a week and a half once and got through something like 3 tubes. Whoops. So I reserve it for my face and neck, on which I slather at least 1/4 tsp each at least 20 minutes before makeup application or sun exposure.
One caution with this sunscreen is that it is not waterproof or sweatproof. This isn’t really an issue for me, as my face doesn’t really sweat (that’s all confined to the back of my head and neck and ALL OVER THE REST OF MY BODY, LUCKY ME), but if I planned to go into the always-too-cold SoCal water, I’d use a Biore face milk (affiliate link) instead.
On the rest of my body, I use Nivea Sun Protect Water Gel in SPF 50 PA+++ (affiliate link). This watery, incredibly fast-absorbing (and alcohol-laden, but I can live with that) sunscreen comes in a 140ml bottle that makes it a bit more suitable for body use.
The thing I really love about the Nivea is that it dries down quickly and completely, just like the Biore. I used to use regular cheap US drugstore sunscreens for my body. That worked okay, but I found myself leaving oily white smears on all the sofas and chairs, and when sunscreen doesn’t dry down, I live in fear of it just wiping off and leaving me unprotected. The Nivea is much better and therefore worth the extra investment. I just got a delivery of two more bottles today. (Sorry, mailman. I know it must suck to work on Sundays.)
As far as lips go, I actually completely neglected to protect them until recently. I just didn’t think about it, and then one day I was exfoliating my lips and noticed that I have freckles on them. Which, on me, means they’re sun-damaged. Goddammit. So I coat my lips in Neutrogena SPF 15 lip balm now and am on the hunt for an even more protective daily use lip product. The Neutrogena is fine for now, though. It’s decently moisturizing and works nicely as a lip primer.
Finally, I have to take a moment to talk about sunscreen reapplication. Chemical UV filters like those used in my sunscreens degrade with UV exposure, and reapplication is advised for every two hours of sun exposure. I’m not usually in the sun for more than two hours, but I was today, so I brought my sunscreens with me. Lips and body just take a quick slather around the 2-hour mark. For my face, I wore minimal makeup since I was going to be at the beach anyway and that’s not the place where I’d feel comfortable in a full face, so I just squeezed an extra dose out into my hand when the time came, rubbed my palms together, and gently patted it on over my makeup. Since, like I said, I ended the day without a single extra sunspot and without getting any tanner at all as far as I could tell, this seemed to work just fine for me and didn’t disrupt my cushion makeup.
I didn’t put my sunglasses in the photo because I forgot to, but those are my UV protection for my eye area. I’ve gotten so used to wearing sunglasses at the first hint of sunlight that if I go outside without them on a cloudy day, I blink and squint like I just escaped from Plato’s cave.
Snails for UV damage repair!
Thing is, as great as sunscreen is, literally nothing can block 100% of UV radiation except a windowless room. Even I have had to come to terms with the fact that every time I go outside, I’m going to incur some photodamage. That’s just part of life.
Luckily, there are substances that show promise at repairing that photodamage, and I’m using a lot of them. I’ve introduced retinol (vitamin A) into my daily routine, and I always jump at the chance to throw some snail goo on my face.
I think some people might be surprised to see how little I talk about snail mucin on this blog, considering the name of the blog, but rest assured, I love me some snails. There are several studies on the effectiveness of snail secretions as a skincare ingredient. This 2-center, double-blind, randomized, 14-week study (of 25 subjects, sigh, better than nothing, I suppose) concluded that applying snail secretion to the face can significantly improve photoaged skin. The cosmetic chemists at The Beauty Brains admit that snail goo has some potential. They’re not enthusiastic by any means, but considering how (rightfully) skeptical they are of hyped-up skincare ingredients, I’m happy just to hear that they don’t think it’s 100% bullcaca.
On days when I know I’ll be taking in more sun than usual, I snail it up both before and after UV exposure. The Tosowoong Snail Natural Pure Essence is a pretty recent addition to my lineup and perfect for days like this. It only contains 20% snail secretion filtrate, much less than Benton Snail Bee High Content Essence and Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule, both of which I used to use extensively, but makes up for it with an ingredients list full of the signature Tosowoong ferments and antioxidant-rich berry extracts.
And of course there are the masks, the post-sun masks. Chilled, of course. My post-sun ritual always involves some snail-based sheet masks and hydrogel masks. Tonight I’ll be doing the last of my stock of Benton Snail Bee High Content sheet masks (affiliate link) followed, if I’m still conscious enough, with a Tony Moly Timeless Ferment Snail hydrogel mask. I’m really loving the Tony Moly masks. Fermentation should make the healing and antioxidant powers of the snail mucin even more available and beneficial to skin, and there really is nothing like a chilled hydrogel mask to cool down an overheated face, something which may be beneficial in itself, according to the always awesome Snow White and the Asian Pear.
After that? There’s nothing left to do but pat in a nice occlusive cream to lock in that snaily, reparative goodness. Then I can go to sleep and sleep soundly, my dreams of Hemsworths undisturbed by any anxiety over what the day’s fun in the sun may have done to my skin.
What are your sun care essentials?