As August winds down and the heatwaves settle, you might think it’s time to ease up on your summer skincare routine. Well, it’s not. The sun doesn’t take breaks and neither can we. Skincare and sun protection are year-round endeavours that always require our utmost attention.
Toronto-based skincare expert and medical doctor, Dr. Jennifer Pearlman, says sun protection goes beyond the SPF rating on your sunscreen bottle. Dr. Pearlman‘s clinic PearlMD Rejuvenation, takes a holistic and personalized approach to women’s health and wellness, meaning there’s never a single, universal solution. Treatments, products, and even nutrition play a role in skincare. After over 20 years of experience in the field and developing her own medical-grade skincare line, she has the answers to some of our most pressing questions.
We talked to Dr. Pearlman to debunk some of our skin myths, understand why sun protection is always important, and learn how we can prevent and treat sun damage:
How does the sun affect our skin?
There are two different types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. They might sound similar but their effects on the skin are very different. So let’s break it down:
UVA is a type of radiation that has a more significant effect on the skin. It causes thinning, pigmentation, and is linked to more worrisome forms of skin cancer. The rays are released throughout the day, so there are no peak hours when it comes to UVA. Clouds, shade, and windows can’t even keep the rays from reaching your skin. Most importantly, the SPF rating of your sunscreen does not tell you anything about UVA protection. “You can be wearing SPF 50 yet have no coverage for UVA,” Dr. Pearlman explains, “and most people don’t realize that.” What you are learning from an SPF rating is the product’s ability to protect against UVB rays. UVB rays are the ones that cause immediate redness in the skin. They also can be blocked by shade and windows, unlike UVA.
Why should we be proactive with our skincare?
Simply put, there’s some skin damage that just can’t be fixed. “The destruction of the essential architectural fibres through UV damage is irreversible,” says Dr. Pearlman.
For minor sun damage, pigmentation, and some fine lines, there are corrective techniques, technologies, and treatments available. However, these should only be considered as options in conjunction with preventative strategies, which include sun avoidance as well as sun shield and protection in the way of hats, glasses, clothing, and a broad spectrum block. Dr. Pearlman recommends a product that combines chemical blocks (for UVB protection) and physical blocks like titanium dioxide and micronized zinc for (UVA protection). The combination of the two types of blocks gives you a very wide spectrum of protection.
What treatments are available for sun damage?
Skincare is about a mix of at-home care and treatments in the clinic. “It’s like the dentist,” Dr. Pearlman says, “deep cleans in the office and regular brushing and flossing at home.”
For sunspots, which are a form of pigmentation, you’ll require preventative and corrective measures. At home, you can use ingredients like arbutin and retinol, which block pigment cells from depositing melanin in the skin in times of UV exposure. At the clinic, Dr. Pearlman offers biochemical peels as well as laser treatments, where laser-focused lights go in and capture pigment in the skin. In terms of peels, the PearlMD Melanage Depigmenting Peel is great for sun damage while the Gloss Retexturing Peel is excellent for congested, oily, and acne-prone skin. In terms of lasers, “Our Pearl Laser Peel combines a gentle laser with a mini-chemical peel for pores, pigment, and texture without the downtime and our Resurfacing Laser Treatment with Fraxel and Collagen infusion is excellent for more extensive pigment, wrinkles, and sun damage.” Dr. Pearlman explains.
For generalized photoaging and photodamage, at-home care requires constant maintenance because our skin is getting sun all day, no matter the season. Retinols and oral supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce the reactivity of the skin when you are exposed to the sun. Biochemical peels, laser treatments, and a soft surgical treatment like Profound, which is a non-invasive lower face and neck lift, can help with these issues.
Melasma, on the other hand, requires a different approach. Defined by dark discoloured patches on your skin, melasma (or chloasma when it occurs in pregnant women) is often referred to as the “Mask of Pregnancy.” Dr. Pearlman says it’s important to seek out the right treatments for melasma because some techniques used for other skin conditions could make it worse. One of the treatments Dr. Pearlman recommends is the Pearl Laser Peel, which is gentle enough to treat the condition.
Can certain foods help our skin?
“Yes, there are beauty foods.” Dr. Pearlman says. What we put inside our bodies can have an incredible effect on our skin health. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for hydrating your skin, are present in fish, nuts, and eggs. Ferulic acid is an antioxidant that helps reduce the formation of wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots and can be found in oats, bran, and citrus. For fruit lovers, coconuts are an excellent source of kinetin, which is a plant-derived botanical growth factor that’s said to have antiaging properties. And if you want to visibly reduce sun damage, spots, and scars, mushrooms are your go-to source for konjic acid. In addition to incorporating these foods into your everyday life, you should also look for skincare products that have these beauty foods on their ingredient lists.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Jordana Colomby)