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Protect yourself from the sun, a Doctor's Approach
Warm weather is the time to get out and enjoy all the great outdoor activities. But we often forget about protecting our skin when we are out in the sun.
Our Skin Needs Protection Too
We often assume that the pigment in our skin protects us from the sun damage that causes aging and skin cancers. The melanin in darker skin does give more protection than Caucasians, but we still need to be vigilant about protecting our skin from the damaging rays of the sun.
Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays – UVA rays and UVB rays. The UVB rays are the ones that burn the skin and are the leading cause of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause depression of our immune system making us more prone to skin cancer. Both however can age the skin and cause sagging and wrinkles. Prolonged, unprotected exposure to the sun and its harmful rays will greatly increase your chance of developing skin cancer.
Just the simple action of wearing a sunscreen or sun block any time you are outdoors can go a long way to protect you from sun damage. Don’t think that just because it’s cloudy outside that you don’t need to protect yourself. 80 percent of the sun rays can penetrate right through the clouds, so make a strict habit of applying sunscreen every day. Select sunscreen products with an SPF of 30, which is the latest recommended SPF from the American Academy of Dermatology. The SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is what protects you against sunburn. If you are going to be near water, or swimming, make sure you select products that are water resistant.
Sunscreen should be applied evenly and liberally at least 20 minutes before going outside, so that it can be fully absorbed into the skin. Carry a small tube or bottle of sunscreen with you so that you can reapply it throughout the day, for optimal protection.
We recommend using a sunscreen, because it absorbs the harmful rays of the sun and prevents sun damage. Sunscreen is absorbed into the skin when applied, therefore it is less noticeable, and effective
Sun blocks block out sun rays. Some products have a combination of ingredients that do both. Aside from finding a product with an SPF of 30 and making sure it protects you from UVA and UVB rays, there are many things you should consider. There are all kinds of sunscreens on the market today. There is a wide selection of cream, lotion, gel and spray sunscreen products in your doctor’s office or in your local pharmacy.
If you have oily skin that is prone to break outs you will want to make sure that the product you use is oil free, and will not clog your pores. Take your allergies into account also. If you break out when you use scented products, look for fragrance free sunscreens and blocks.
And remember to take into account the other products you use on the skin (or medications and pills you may take orally). Some of these products may make you more sensitive to the sun. If you are using a retinoid cream on the skin you will want to take extra precautions to limit your exposure to the sun. We recommend applying your retinoid based products just before bed.
I recommend 11/2 ounces of product for your whole body. This may sound like a lot, but you need to make sure that you are using enough to protect your skin. If you are using the right amount of sunscreen, you should be buying it as often as you do toothpaste or the lotions that you use daily.
Don’t forget the nose, ears, the bottom of your feet and your hands when applying sunscreen. The nose has one of the highest incidence of skin cancer. Other “hidden areas” like the backs of neck, knees and the elbows are also important areas to protect from the sun.
The Sun and Aging
The sun not only makes you vulnerable to cancers, but it also is one of the quickest ways to speed up the aging process. The ultraviolet rays of the sun are the leading contributor to those fine lines and wrinkles that can make us look older. The sun’s rays are also a major culprit in developing brown spots, moles, and causing changes in the texture of our skin.
Some of the current makeup products, such as foundations include SPF for protection against the sun. While they may add extra protection, most only have an SPF of 15 at the highest. You may want to start with a sun screen product that has an SPF 30. Don’t forget to use a moisturizing lip balm with SPF under your lipstick to protect you from the sun.
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Doctor’s Approach is a full-service medical and surgical dermatology clinic with a cosmetic medical spa. Our dermatology practice has been well established and respected for over 15 years, with patients visiting from all over the Midwest region.