Saving your skin: Expert advice on sun protection, self-tanners and the bar soap vs. body wash debate

Protecting our skin from the summer sun

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Cold mornings and hot afternoons can send your skin into a bit of a shock, but there are some moves dermatologists say will help.

From sun protection to self-tanners to the bar soap vs. body wash debate, we want to help you save your skin.

Here’s what we learned from the skin experts:

Saving your skin

Dermatologists recommend you always use sun protection, no matter the weather.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you wear sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher and you should put it on no matter how cold or cloudy it might be.

As difficult as it is on chilly mornings, avoid hot showers.

That’s even more likely to dry out your skin and cause itchiness and irritation.

Instead, opt for a warm shower and limit your time to 10 minutes or less.

And don’t forget to moisturize. Cold weather can dry out your skin.

The dryer it gets, the more likely bacteria is to get into it and cause pimples and infections.

Dermatologists recommend a light moisturizer with ceramides. That way it’s not too thick on your skin.

The best time to put it on is right after you get out of the shower and wash your face. That helps your skin retain the most moisture.


Many people use self-tanners and spray tans to save their skin from the sun. But are those products themselves really safe?

Let’s start with how they work.

Proteins on the top layer of your skin react to ingredients in the self-tanner. The chemical process is called the Maillard reaction.

This reaction is actually what causes food, like bread, to turn brown when cooking.

The active ingredient that causes that reaction in most self-tanners is dihydroxyacetone or DHA.

DHAs can break down collagen and elastin in the skin, which leads to wrinkling and aging. But dermatologists say that’s typically not the case with self-tanners.

They react with the top, dead layers of the skin. Skin aging typically happens within the deeper layers.

When it comes to how long you wear self-tanner, dermatologists say it’s always best to follow the instructions for the specific product you’re using.

But since most self-tanners are leave-on products, there are not specific safety risks associated with leaving it on your skin longer than recommended.

Dermatologists say the biggest risk comes with spray tans. Studies show repeatedly breathing in those chemicals can cause cell damage within your respiratory system and can trigger conditions like asthma.

They recommend you wear a mask and ask the salon to avoid spraying your face. A better alternative is to use lotion or tanning drops at home.

Bar soap or body wash?

Whether you use a bar soap, body wash or shower gel matters.

Dermatologists say traditional bar soaps are the worst for your skin. They are considered more drying than body washes or shower gels. They have a higher pH level and can strip natural moisture.

Body washes are typically more moisturizing. They have lower pH levels and are better for sensitive skin.

Shower gels are typically in the middle when it comes to pH.

Dermatologists say the biggest concerns about body washes or shower gels are the fragrances and preservatives that come with them. They can trigger several reactions, even eczema.

So when it comes to what is best for you, it really depends on what works best for your skin.

Consumer Reports experts do add that if you’re using bar soap to help the environment, you aren’t doing much.

Many people choose it because it has less packaging, but researchers say you can make more of an environmental difference by taking a shorter shower.

Lowering your water heater temperature to around 120 degrees will also help save energy -- and money.

About the Authors:

A Jacksonville native and proud University of North Florida alum, Francine Frazier has been with News4Jax since 2014 after spending nine years at The Florida Times-Union.