Going into summer, I can’t put enough emphasis on the importance of protecting your skin. It is one of the greatest causes of aging skin and skin cancer, which is the most prevalent form of cancer in the U.S.
How does the sun age skin?
The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light harms the elastin to cause sagging skin later in life. When the elastin fibers break down over time, the skin loses its ability to go back into place after stretching, and will bruise and tear more readily. Collagen is also negatively affected by UV rays to cause a hollow, dehydrated appearance due to volume loss as we age. Skin discoloration called pigmentation comes to the surface of the skin, and this uneven skin tone also contributes to an aged appearance.
What is skin cancer?
It is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that results in tumors. These are either noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). Of the 3 main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are less serious types and very successfully treated when detected early. Melanoma, consisting of abnormal skin pigment cells, is the most serious form of skin cancer. Of all the deaths from cancer, 75% of them all are from melanoma.
Protect yourself against aging and skin cancer caused by the sun… As you can see, skin cancer can be serious and yet in many cases it is preventable. Even if you’ve damaged your skin from over exposure, which you can’t completely undo, there still is hope. The skin is regenerative, so to some extent ongoing sun protection can help in the healing process and prevent further damage.
Tips to help prevent skin damage from the sun:
• Wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses that have UV shield.
• Stay out of the direct sun during peak UV radiation hours between 10 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
• Protect your children, especially since the majority of sun damage happens before age 18.
• For UVB protection, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Sunscreen with zinc oxide provides UVA protection, but should be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure. Be sure to reapply every 2 hours or more often if you are sweating or swimming.
Sunscreen Scam… A recent study done by Consumer Reports shows that many of today’s sunscreens falsely advertise levels of SPF. In some cases, certain brands had up to 70 percent less protection than advertised on the package. The test included 34 brands, 11 of which fell short of their protection claims, some of them being:
• Coppertone ClearlySheer for Beach & Pool SPF 50+ (delivered SPF 37)
• Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Ultra Radiance SPF 50 (delivered SPF 28)
• Babyganics Mineral-Based SPF 50+ (delivered SPF 25)
• Banana Boat Sport Performance Clear UltraMist with Powerstay Technology SPF 50+ (delivered SPF 24)
• Yes To Cucumbers Natural SPF 30 (delivered SPF 14)
The brands that received good protection ratings were:
• Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 lotion
• Equate (Walmart) Ultra Protection SPF 50 lotion
• Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray SPF 50+
• La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk SPF 60 (got a perfect score of 100 in the test)
Please perform skin self-exams regularly to be familiar with existing growths so that you notice changes. Also, if you are unhappy with the effects of elastin and collagen damage already caused by the sun and aging, I offer a variety of effective surgical and non surgical options to help rejuvenate your skin. Visit www.davinciplastic.com for more details.
Enjoy your summer!
Steven Davison M.D.
Board Certified Plastic/Reconstructive Surgeon