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Ask any Southlake, TX dermatologist for their top piece of advice for preserving the youthful appearance of skin and they’ll likely answer, “protect it from the sun”. Sun damage is cumulative and can lead to premature aging, wrinkles, and, in worst-case scenarios, certain kinds of skin cancer. Here are some of the top suggestions from certified dermatologists. They deal with sun-damaged skin on a daily basis. Sure, some sun damage can be reversed using specialized treatments and procedures, but prevention is still your best bet for life-long great skin.
Science has taught us the necessity of protecting skin in a changing environment that is becoming increasingly harsh. Broad spectrum sunscreens (products that address both types of ultraviolet light, or UV and UVB sun rays) are a useful line of defense. Apply daily before sun exposure, on the face, arms, legs, and body parts that you might forget are also vulnerable such as ears and the tops of your feet. For best results, apply 15 to 20 minutes before going out in order to give the skin a chance to fully absorb the protection. With so many products available these days, there are options for creams, lotions, and sprays in different formulations. Choose the one you are most likely to use consistently every day.
Wear a Hat
Physically blocking sun rays from hitting your scalp, hair and face is also a good idea. Choose a hat with a wide brim (today’s fashionable bucket hats are ideal) in a light color. You don’t have to wear it all day, but when the sun’s rays are harshest in the afternoon, or around the beach – wearing a hat can reduce the risk of burns and heat stroke.
Use a Sunblock
While sunscreens use chemistry (and agents such as avobenzone and octinoxate) to protect your skin from the sun, sunblock creates a physical barrier with minerals like titanium oxide and zinc oxide to keep rays from reaching your skin. When you see lifeguards wearing unabsorbed white cream on their noses, it’s a mineral-based sunblock. It’s great for protecting very vulnerable areas, or if you are fair-skinned and must be in direct sunlight for a period of time.
Re-apply, Re-apply, Re-apply
Sunscreen needs to be re-applied frequently to be an effective protection for fragile skin. Dermatologists recommend refreshing sunscreen every two hours or so while in the sun, more frequently if you are swimming, exercising, or sweating heavily. This applies even if you are using a waterproof or resistant sunscreen.
Up the SPF
Sun protection factor (SPF) is a scale that indicates how long you can stay in the sun without burning if you use sunscreen. Go for at least a 30 SPF for outdoor use – this means that, with proper application, your skin is 30 times less likely to burn than it would be going without sunscreen. These days, it’s not uncommon for sunscreen products to be available in SPF 60 or 70.
Explore Sun-Protective Clothing
In response to increased awareness about sun damage, the fashion industry is innovating with UV-filtering fabrics that can be worn in the sun, even while swimming. These fabrics are ranked using a UPF scale, which stands for ultraviolet protection factor. UPF protection clothing rated 50 means that only 2% ( or 1/50th) of UV rays can penetrate the fabric. So the higher the UPF rating is, the more UV protective the piece of clothing is. One note: wearing UPF clothing doesn’t mean you can go without sunscreen.
Monitor for Skin Cancers
Sun damage can alter human DNA, and lead to disruptions at the cellular level. And sun damage accumulates over your lifetime and can result in a number of types of skin cancer. The most deadly type of cutaneous cancer, melanoma, has increased radically in the past few decades according to the Mayo Clinic. Especially if you are over the age of 60, keep an eye out for skin irregularities like tags, spots of discoloration, or moles, and consult with a dermatologist or doctor if you suspect they are out of the ordinary.
Avoid Peak Sun Hours
In North America, the sun’s UV rays are at their most fierce and potentially damaging between 10 am and 4 pm. Avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight during this time, especially during summer months, if it’s possible. Sunny winter days can also wreak havoc on skin.
Cold Weather Precautions
Be extra careful around water, snow, and sand. These elements all have reflective properties that can amplify the effects of UV rays, and bounce them onto unprotected areas of your skin. So be extra cautious and attentive to sunscreen when skiing on a sunny day or hanging out at the beach.
See a Dermatologist Regularly
In addition to providing great advice about ongoing sun care, a certified dermatologist can recommend corrective treatments such as laser or chemical peels that can help reverse superficial sun damage. Dermatologists are also familiar with innovations in the field and can recommend the newest and best sun care products. Finally, certified dermatologists can help learn about your skin, its care, and the threats against it. This is not just a cosmetic concern (though we are all impacted by the aesthetics of aging, and each of us is deserving of efforts to control it to the best of our ability), it’s a question of health and wellbeing.
If you live in the greater Southlake, TX area and would like to learn more about how dermatology can help repair and prevent sun damage to your skin, get in touch with the experts at Compassion Dermatology. Their certified dermatologists have a wealth of knowledge to share. Call 817-380-5911 or use the handy contact form to book a consultation today.