No one likes to hear it, but when it comes to sun protection, there’s a good chance you’re doing it wrong.
I hear from patients often that things were a lot different “back in the day.” A time before airbags, nutrition labeling, Surgeon General warnings, and unfortunately before anyone knew what ultraviolet rays were. No one was ever told that excessive tanning was horrible for you. I remember the first time I saw a picture of my mom and her friends laying out with Iodine and baby oil slathered all over them, I couldn’t stop laughing! This was short lived when she reminded me of how much I tanned in High school. I grew up in the tanning bed era and I’m definitely guilty of over tanning. Leather skin IS a thing! I’m not sure how I missed the memo that Dorito colored skin should never be “in.” Unfortunately, it took something drastic for me to change my ways. My sister had a friend pass away at a young age from melanoma. That was my “aha moment.”
Luckily, going to Aesthetic school after college was the best thing I could have done for my skin and life. Let me tell you, once you have your face scanned in the Vectra machine (complimentary in our MedSpa), you will realize it’s time to tackle the damage we did in our youth. Fast forward a few decades: Self-tanning lotions and spray tans don’t all make you look like an Oompa Loompa anymore. Society knows about all of the deadly dangers of exposure, especially over-exposure to the sun. We’re all making wiser choices now, right? Well, unfortunately women and men are still making a lot of the same poor choices. I get asked on a daily basis how to “turn back the hands of time” of sun damage. While we do offer many effective treatments for helping what damage we have caused, the best treatment is PREVENTION and education! I hope this helps clear up some common questions we get asked and potentially save a life!
Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, making it the most common form of cancer by far, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Your skin is the largest organ of the body and the most subjected to the harsh ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, which are known to cause cancer and extreme aging, yet most of the damage is preventable with proper sunscreen use.
- “I have SPF in my makeup that I used this morning..I’m good for the day.”
Chances are you’re probably not putting enough sunscreen on. Mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are typically thicker in appearance, so people often think they are putting on enough when they’re actually not. Pay closer attention when using these sunscreens to ensure you’re properly covered. The Skin Cancer foundations says 1 ounce (get out your shot glass), every 2 hours. You should drain half a bottle on a long beach day. In addition to touching up your exposed bits every couple of hours, you should try to cover up as much as possible with long sleeves and broad-brim hats and avoid being under the sun when it’s at its midday peak between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- “I’m naturally tan, so I don’t need sunscreen.”
Your sunscreen should also protect you from UVA rays. Many sunscreens only provide UVB protection, since these rays cause burning, but your sunscreen should also help fend off seriously evil UVA rays. These don’t burn skin. They pass right through it, where they work stealthily and destructively, deep down in your dermis. That’s where your new skin cells are produced, along with your elastin and collagen. The result? Sun spots, wrinkles, lack of firmness, and the like—at an undisclosed time in the future. Ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide help fend off both UVA and UVB. All three of our available sunscreens like our fan favorite Daily Tinted Sunshield are SPF 50 and contain Zinc Oxide.
- “I still have some left over from last summer.”
Don’t use expired sunscreen. The dates on your sunscreen matter and are there for a reason! Sunscreens typically last about two years unopened, but once you’ve cracked the lid, it’s a case of use it or lose it. Also keeping it in your car (AKA a sauna) could expedite the clumping and separation process, which will make it no longer effective.
- “It’s cloudy out, I’m fine.”
The weather makes little difference with overcast conditions blocking as little as 20 percent of the inbound radiation. What’s more, geographic features like snow, sand, and water can all reflect as much as 70 percent of the sunlight that hits them and higher altitudes actually increase UV exposure (yes, because you’re closer to the Sun). As such, you shouldn’t rely on the local forecast to protect you.
- “I have water-proof sunscreen. I’m good for the whole day.”
Sunscreens that call themselves “sport” or “water-resistant” can be deceiving. The FDA doesn’t allow brands to say sunscreens are “waterproof” or “sweatproof,” so brands think of creative ways to indicate it. If they use the permitted term of “water-resistant, companies must indicate whether it’s for 40 or 80 minutes. Still, it’s almost impossible to gauge their accuracy. Our motto is that you should re-apply sunscreen as soon as you get out of the water, towel off, or at least every two hours.
- “I tan but I use a towel over my face.”
(I immediately face palm every time I hear this.) A towel provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of 5 and some fabrics are less – not enough to protect your face from damage and dreaded wrinkles. A common misconception is that using sunscreen alone prevents skin cancer. This is sadly not the case. Melanoma has tripled over the past 35 years. Sun-protective clothing (in addition to proper sunscreen) is your best bet.
- “I wear a SPF 100”
The Food and Drug Administration, which regulates how sunscreens are sold, is considering simplifying the entire upper half of the SPF scale into simply “SPF 50+” because it hasn’t seen any data that show that higher SPF numbers are more beneficial than SPF 50. In this case, Re-application (of a SPF 50) is more important than a higher SPF.
I’m happy to work for a practice that not only educates our patients but is with you (along with your dermatologist) every step of the way. Our office offers skin checks with our talented Nurse Practitioners and in-house modified MOHS procedures under the supervision of our Plastic Surgeon. Prevention is key!
“Invest in your skin. It’s going to represent you for a very long time.”