Skin cancer

Enjoy the Outdoors and Protect Your Skin from the Summer Sun

Is there anything more cheering than the first balmy, sunny days of spring? After a seemingly endless run of cold, gray days, people of all ages gleefully shed their cold-weather gear, take to the outdoors, and look forward to a season of fun in the sun. And as surely as the seasons change and the sun shines, we can count on hearing the warnings to protect our skin from sun damage.

“No one should tune out advice on sun protection,” says Dr. Suzanne Friedler of Advanced Dermatology, P.C. “About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86% of melanomas are associated with exposure to ultra-violet radiation from the sun.”

While skin cancer is the most serious consequence of sun exposure, it isn’t the only one. Changes to the skin that are generally associated with the aging process – sagging, wrinkling, dryness, discoloration – are actually caused by UV rays, which over time break down fibers in the skin causing it to lose elasticity. “Despite the damage done by the sun, we don’t want people to miss out on outdoor activities,” says Dr. Friedler. “We can’t prevent all sun exposure but there are simple steps we can take to minimize risk.”

Everyone knows the basics – use sunscreen, wear a hat, and stay out of the sun between 10:00am and 4:00pm – but not all sunscreens are equally protective and neither are all hats. Dr. Friedler provides some additional tips to help you protect your skin from damage this summer:

Use water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 50 or more every day, even when it is cloudy. Slather it on liberally before getting dressed and at least thirty minutes before going out. Reapply every two hours, more often if you’ve been swimming or perspiring. Don’t use old sunscreen – the active ingredients lose their potency after a year or two.

Don’t depend on makeup for sun protection. Even with SPF, makeup doesn’t bind to the skin as well as sunscreen, wears off, and isn’t applied thickly enough to be effective.

A baseball cap does not offer adequate sun protection! Wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim.

Wear clothing that is densely woven and dark in color or consider specially made sun-protective clothing that is made of fabric infused with radiation-absorbing chemicals. Look for an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 or above.

UV radiation can damage not just the skin of the eyelid but the cornea, lens and other parts of the eye. Wear wrap-around sunglasses – all year round – that protect 99-100% of UVA and UVB rays.

Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps. They give out UVA and usually UVB rays as well.

Babies younger than six months should be kept out of the sun entirely and well protected with a hat and clothing anytime they are outdoors. For babies older than 6 months, when going outdoors, be sure to use a sunscreen with physical blockers such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and an SPF of at least 50.

“Remember that there is no such thing as a safe suntan,” says aesthetician Jayme Bashian of Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa. “Even a light tan from the sun is an indicator of skin damage. If you want the appearance of a ‘sun-kissed glow,’ consider sunless tanning, which can give you a tanned look without exposure to harmful radiation.” The active ingredient in most sunless tanning products is a color additive that reacts with dead cells in the skin’s surface to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan. The coloring typically wears off after a few days.

“Sunless tanning products are sold as lotions, creams, and sprays that you can apply yourself,” says Ms. Bashian, “but the best, most even results are obtained by professional spray tanning by hand or in an automated tanning booth that has nozzles that spray the entire body with tanning solution.” Topical sunless tanning products are generally considered safe alternatives to sunbathing, as long as they’re used as directed or by a qualified professional.

Despite the fact that UV rays are strongest during the summer months and the most damage to the skin occurs then, it is possible to enjoy outdoor activities – on the golf course, at the beach, on the tennis court, in the backyard – and protect your skin,

Suzanne J. Friedler, M.D. F.A.A.D., is a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, with expertise in many areas of medical and cosmetic dermatology. She has been with Advanced Dermatology PC since 2002.

Jayme Bashian is director and lead medical aesthetician for the Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa, a division of Advanced Dermatology PC and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery. She is board-certified in aesthetics, she works alongside leading cosmetic surgeons, who specialize in advanced aesthetics and cosmetic surgery.

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