Everyone loves sunny days and the chance to get outside for some fresh air and warm weather fun. Unfortunately, the sun is not as friendly to our skin, casting dangerous UV (ultraviolet) radiation that can do substantial harm. You probably know how important it is to protect your skin from the elements by using sunscreen, sunglasses, and avoiding sunburn, but you may not realize just how much the sun can impact your skin, particularly over time. The sun’s rays can have two devastating effects: skin cancer, and photoaging. Let’s take a closer look at what the sun actually does to the skin.
The Sun and Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over 2 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer annually, according to skincancer.org.
There are many different forms of skin cancer, and they range in intensity from the common and easily treatable basal cell carcinoma to the deadly melanoma. Sun exposure increases the risk for these cancers immensely, and around 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are linked to UV radiation from the sun (skincancer.org). Exposure over time can greatly increase the risk for developing cancer, particularly if tanning (indoor or outdoor) is involved.
Treatment for Skin Cancer
The good news about skin cancer is that it is rarely deadly or disfiguring if caught early. This is why it’s so important to check your skin often and report to a dermatologist if you see something out of the ordinary. There are various methods for treating skin cancer, but a particularly effective treatment known as MOHS surgery is currently quite popular. This surgery minimizes the damage to surrounding skin while still ensuring removal of the cancerous cells.
The Sun and Photoaging
If preventing skin cancer isn’t enough motivation to help you protect your skin, then think about the future appearance of your skin. UV rays from the sun damage your skin significantly and can greatly accelerate the aging process. Protecting your skin from a young age can reduce these effects and keep you looking younger for longer.
Treatment for Photoaging
Today, there are many minimally invasive ways to reduce the signs of aging and improve theeffects of sun damage. If you are interested in pursuing anti-aging treatments, you and your dermatologist may want to combine treatments to address specific types of aging in your face. Here are some of the treatments (and their effects) that can help:
- Laser Resurfacing (skin tone, wrinkles, discoloration, dullness)
- Ultherapy® (sagging skin)
- Fillers and Botox® (lines and wrinkles)
- E Matrix (skin tone, fine lines)
- Sublime™ (volume loss, sagging, wrinkles)
- Chemical Peels and Microdermabrasion (dull skin)
Always seek these treatments from an experienced and skilled dermatologist.
Protection From UV Rays
Today, we have many methods for protecting against the harmful rays of the sun, but many people still neglect sun protection, simply forgetting or thinking it’s not a big deal. Unfortunately, this is the kind of thinking that leads to problems like skin cancer and photoaging. It’s worth a little inconvenience to protect your skin for the long term, so start right away in making these skin protection steps into habits.
The most widely-publicized way to help prevent skin cancer and sun damage, sunscreen is an absolute must when going outdoors, particularly in the summer. Sunscreen should ideally be worn all year round, as harmful UV rays don’t disappear on overcast days. Sunscreen should be put on before going outside,and you should use one ounce of the product over your body, taking care not to forget areas such as the back of the neck, face, and ears. Use an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, and reapply at least every two hours. Don’t forget to protect the whole family–kids have very sensitive skin. Babies under 6 months, however, should not wear sunscreen and should be kept out of the sun.
While it’s not always feasible to wear long pants and shirt sleeves all the time, protective clothing is a good way to keep the sun’s rays from harming your skin. Some clothes are specially made to reflect or absorb UV rays, so if you’re into outdoor sports, like running, it’s worth investing in a few pieces to protect your skin.
Don’t forget the important role of hats and sunglasses, which should be worn as much as possible when in the sun. Choose a wide-brim hat and sunglasses that advertise UV protection for best results.
Since UV rays can bounce off reflective surfaces and travel through windows, many people are beginning to realize the need to protect themselves indoors. Today, protective films are available for both home and car windows that can reduce UV rays by over 99 percent. These films have other benefits as well–they can help keep a home cool in the summer and warm in winter.
Try to stay out of the sun during the time when it’s strongest (approximately 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). If you need to be outside during these times, seek shade and follow the steps above to help keep your skin safe.
If you’re worried about a suspicious mark on your skin, it’s important to have it looked at right away. Even if you’re not worried about skin cancer, it’s still a good idea to find a dermatologist you can trust to help you keep your skin fresh, beautiful, and healthy. If you choose a dermatologist who specializes in cosmetic dermatology, like Dr. Diane Walder or Dr. Stacy Chimentoof Miami, the benefit is twofold: You’ll have a knowledgeable resource for skin health and access to the best anti-aging technology available. To learn more about the treatments above or simply to discuss your skin’s needs, call Dr. Walder’s office today at 305-866-2177 to schedule your appointment.