Now that gorgeous Spring weather is around the corner, we are itching to get outside in the sun. But our love affair isn’t a two way street: Unprotected exposure to the sun, even if we are just driving in the car or near windows inside, causes most of the wrinkles and skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. In time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers breakdown, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. Lines, freckles, yellow discoloration, mottled brown pigmentation, and redness also begin to appear.
Direct sun exposure is the #1 cause of skin cancer and pre-cancers…something which is so so preventable. So let’s all do something about that! Follow these simple tips to to avoid and delay those expensive laser treatments, face lifts, and skin cancer treatments down the line:
- Slather on the sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every few hours thereafter
- Make sunscreen a part of your daily morning routing, even if you are just driving to work or the sky is overcast. You will still absorb plenty of UV light.
- Shop for cosmetic products, contact lenses and sunglasses that offer UV protection
- “Chanel” Nicole Kidman and wear 4-5″ wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts and pants.
- There are now many companies which offer clothing with superior sun protection with SPF ratings. Another simple option is to turn your favorite washable clothing into sun protective wear by adding a packet of Rit Sun Guard Laundry Treatment UV Protectant in with the laundry detergent.
- The shade rules! Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths
- Start good skin cancer prevention habits in your child… 80 percent of sun exposure and skin damage occurs before we are 18!
- Of course, always avoid tanning beds.
Now for some sunscreen label basics: Sunlight contains the visible light that we can see and ultraviolet (UV) light that we cannot. There are two types of UV light, UVA and UVB. UVA light is responsible for tanning and UVB for sunburn. Both can damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Currently, SPF ratings on sunscreens refer only to UVB protection, not UVA protection. The higher the number up to an SPF of 30, the better the overall sun protection. A rating of 15 is the minimum baseline recommended by dermatologists to protect the skin from UVB rays.
A sunblock will rate an SPF of 12 or higher and contains a physical sunblock that physically blocks, reflects, or absorbs sunlight so it can’t reach your skin. True physical sunblocks contain either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
In the future, sunscreens may get a new rating system and a warning, thanks to a new FDA proposal that will set standards for labeling over-the-counter sunscreens for both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection.
The proposal includes a four-star rating system for sunscreen protection against UVA light. One star would represent low UVA protection; two stars: medium protection; three stars:high protection; and four stars: the highest UVA protection available in an over-the-counter sunscreen.
Don’t forget these important tips about sunscreens:
- Shake well before using.
- Look for a waterproof brand.
- Always read the labels and select one that doesn’t have PABA or any ingredient you are sensitive to.
- Use on all parts of your body exposed to the sun…don’t forget the top of your ears and those thinning scalps ( I know…not you!) and don’t skimp on coverage.
- Look for the expiration date, because some ingredients may loose their strength with time.
- A continuous spray sunscreen is good to get even impossible-to-reach places.
- Sticks formulas are great for swiping across the tops of your hands when driving.
So go out and have fun golfing, playing tennis, and enjoying the beautiful Spring weather, but just use sun sense, safety and protection while you do it.
Dr. Jacknin is a board-certified dermatologist, author of the book “Smart Medicine for Your Skin” and founder of Primal Skin Care for Men. Find out more about her, skin care treatments, and advanced anti-aging skin care products at www.Primalmd.com, and www.DrJacknin.com.