Summer’s over which means it’s time to repent for all our sun-damage sins. Clinique’s top scientist breaks it down

Ready to be scared straight? Or at least scared into better protecting your skin? You’ve heard of UVA and UVB rays. Well, UVB are known as “burning rays,” says Dr. Tom Mammone, executive director of skin physiology and pharmacology Clinique research and development worldwide—and they’re strongest in the summer. UVA rays, aka “aging rays,” are strong all year round. The results of soaking these up? “Sunburns (a known contributor to malignant melanoma), premature aging, local and systemic immune system depression (cold sore or fever blister outbreaks), uneven pigmentation, wrinkles, loss of collagen (which leads to sagging), skin growths and broken capillaries,” he says. Yep, frightening.

So we know sun exposure will make us look old, but is there any hope? Says Dr. Mammone, “The body and skin have a very good repair and rebuilding process that can heal and restore lots of damage—if allowed the time and energy to do so.” With that said, get on it! “Sun not only dehydrates skin but damages the skin cells and the barrier function, which can give the appearance of dry, flaky skin,” says Dr. Mammone. It also reduces sebum production, exacerbating the dryness.

To help, look for “ingredients like sucrose, oat extract, caffeine and shiso liquid that help keep sun-exposed skin calm and collected,” he says. Sodium hyaluronate (aka hyaluronic acid) will counter sun’s drying effects, while aloe is a proven soother. Dr. Mammone advises keeping Clinique After-Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe in the fridge before applying to help cool skin.

Sun-damaged skin also needs to be exfoliated to allow the new, better-looking layer of cells to emerge. “The new Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush provides mechanical exfoliation, which helps weaken the bonds or ‘glue’ between the epidermal cells,” says Dr. Mammone. “While it helps loosen these bonds, it will not always free the cells to the degree that a chemical exfoliating ingredient such as salicylic acid of glucosamine will, which you’ll find in Clinique Clarifying Lotion.”

As for treating discoloration and dark spots, the expert points to Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum and Even Better Clinical Dark Spot Corrector for a multi-pronged approach. “Skin damage starts much earlier than most people think,” says Dr. Mammone. “And how damage develops is unique to each person. Some will only get dark spots, discoloration and uneven skin tone, some will get lines and wrinkles. The Smart Custom-Repair Serum is created for that person who wants to repair multiple aging factors, many of which are caused by sun damage. It addresses damage you see, and even the damage you don’t [thanks to] specialized repair molecules that respond to the distress signals sent out by your skin.”

While swimsuit season may be over, it’s wise to protect yourself against and avoid environmental stressors that can trigger excess melanin synthesis—all year round. (Try a product that includes both sunscreen and antioxidants, such as Clinique Even Better Skin Tone Correcting Moisturizer SPF 20.) Need more encouragement? According to Dr. Mammone, some scientists claim 90 percent of visible skin aging is courtesy of sun exposure. Now, we’re sure you’ll never forget your sunblock again!

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