The most effective way to combat skin problems, much like anything else, is prevention. It is important to have a balanced, nutritious diet; to get plenty of exercise; and most importantly, to avoid overexposure to the sun. Sun exposure is responsible for the majority of medical and cosmetic skin conditions, so always be sure to protect your skin by using large-brimmed hats, sun-protective clothing, and high-SPF sunscreens during daylight hours.
How to Perform a Self-Exam
We recommend you perform routine self-exams to look for potential signs of skin cancers. Learn how to perform a self-exam on the American Academy of Dermatology’s website.
Facts About the Sun and Tips to Help You Protect Yourself:
Avoid Exposure to the Sun
AVOID THE SUN AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Most wrinkles, discolorations, prominent blood vessels, pre-cancers, and skin cancers can be improved or treated by medications, laser, liquid nitrogen and surgery, but the best approach to maintaining young-looking cancer-free skin is to avoid exposing your skin to the ultraviolet light of the sun.
PROTECT YOUR SKIN WITH SUN PROTECTIVE CLOTHING
No sunscreen is as effective as avoidance. Try to stay indoors when the sun is at its strongest, such as midday. Whenever possible, cover your arms, legs, and trunk with sun protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats and tightly woven fabrics. Look for clothes specially designed for coverage in hot weather, which protect against ultraviolet (UV) while wicking perspiration through the fabric and cooling by evaporation.
Protect yourself from UV-B and UV-A
UV-A DAMAGE IS NOT INDICATED BY SUNBURN
UV-B ultraviolet rays cause both skin cancer and the sunburns you may experience after lengthy sun exposure. UV-A, or long wavelength ultraviolet, is associated with the tanning response rather than burning, but penetrates deeper into the skin than UV-B, causing damage to collagen that results in wrinkles as well as causing skin cancers.
PEOPLE WITH BLUE OR HAZEL EYES, WATCH OUT FOR UV-A
UV-A can cause damage to people with ALL skin and eye colors. However, recent research suggests that the skin pigment (melanin) of blue- and hazel-eyed people is markedly inferior in absorbing UV-A rays, and therefore does not protect the skin suitably from the dangers of photodamage. People who DO NOT have brown eyes must be especially vigilant in avoiding exposure to UV-A, while also continuing to protecting themselves from excessive UV-B.
UV-A RAYS PASS THROUGH WINDOW GLASS
Both UV-B and UV-A are strongest during the hours around midday, but while window glass tends to block UV-B rays, UV-A passes right through window glass.
EXTEND COVERAGE TO ALL DAYLIGHT HOURS
People with blue and hazel eyes should use sunscreen that blocks both UV-A and UV-B on exposed areas of skin virtually every day of the year and any time they are to be out of the home, even if driving, or if indoors sitting in front of a large window. Our previous recommendation that it was relatively safe to have sun exposure before 10AM and after 4PM during the summer and spring and 10AM to 2PM during the fall and winter, or drive in a car with the windows rolled up without sun protection. This advice was incorrect, especially for people with blue or hazel colored eyes. UV-A can damage the skin not only midday and during the summer, but is also in the morning and late afternoon and during the winter.
TANNING PARLORS ARE DANGEROUS
In particular, tanning parlors using UV-A rays should be avoided by people with all eye colors. Tanning means damage to DNA.
DON'T BE FOOLED BY SHADE OR A CLOUDY DAY
While most people feel safer in a shaded area, the truth is that the shade on a cloudy day or shade falling on exposed skin under a broad brimmed hat, umbrella or awning only has 30-60% of UV-A and UV-B rays blocked (equivalent to SPF from 1.5 to 3). Therefore although standing or sitting in shade is preferable to being exposed to direct sunlight, protective clothing and sunscreen are still needed even in the shade or on a cloudy day.
The sun protection factor (SPF) only applies to UV-B. SPF lets people know how much time they can have UV-B exposure when wearing the sunscreen to get a sunburn comparable to not wearing the sunscreen. For example a person with fair skin who takes 10 minutes to get a sunburn mid-day in June without sunscreen protection will take 150 minutes to get the same burn when wearing a generous amount of SPF 15 sunscreen. However, people may still be getting a large amount of UV-A unless they are wearing sunscreen containing UV-A protective ingredients.
Physical blocking agents including zinc oxide and titanium dioxide also block UV-A, and are now very cosmetically acceptable since they are formulated in microparticle size so they no longer leave a thick white residue to protect the skin. Look for sunscreens with high SPF for UV-B protection that also contain ingredients to protect against damage from UV-A.
Most sunscreen ingredients are broken down by ultraviolet light as it absorbs this energy. The exceptions are Mexoryl, Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide (both of which reflect rather than absorb Ultraviolet) and Avobenzone and Oxybenzone stabilized with Helioplex.
APPLY SUNSCREEN LIBERALLY
Sunscreens must be put on generously to achieve their labeled SPF. This means a shot glass full of sunscreen for a full body. All sunscreen should be reapplied after the skin is wiped off following perspiration and swimming and reapplied every hour or two if actually out in the sun. Although SPF 15 gives enough protection to avoid sunburn in most persons, a majority of people put on less than half the required sunscreen to achieve this SPF, getting an SPF of only 5.
Regular use of sunglasses that block UV-A and UV-B reduce the chance of getting cataracts and macular degeneration. This is especially important for people with blue or hazel eyes who may get these conditions while in their 40's or 50's. People of all eye colors and ages can delay cataracts and the near blindness of macular degeneration by minimizing UV-A and UV-B exposure to the eyes. Sunglasses, along with protecting the skin from the sun, should start during childhood and continue lifelong.
USING SUNSCREEN DOES NOT INCREASE SKIN CANCER
Studies showing that sunscreen use increases skin cancer are wrong. People who used sunscreen regularly and had equivalent amounts of sun exposure to unprotected individuals had much lower levels of pre-cancers and skin cancers as well as fewer wrinkles, fine blood vessels and dark spots on exposed areas. They also had fewer moles. However, individuals who stayed out in the sun for a much longer period of time than they would have otherwise just because they were wearing sunscreen may indeed have developed more skin cancers. Additional epidemiologic data only asking for sunscreen use and skin cancer incidence ignored skin color. People with darker skin tend to use less sunscreen, and it is no surprise they still get less skin cancer than people who sunburn very easily even if they use sunscreen on most days. THIS IS WHY AVOIDANCE IS BEING SO STRONGLY ENCOURAGED. Vitamin D is better obtained from food and vitamins than from the sun.
Following these rules for protection against the sun's damaging UV-A and UV-B ultraviolet rays can keep your skin healthy by minimizing wrinkles and dangerous and threatening cancers.
ASK US ABOUT SPECIFIC BRANDS OF SUNSCREEN AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING WHICH WOULD BE MOST APPROPRIATE FOR YOUR SKIN TYPE, ACTIVITY LEVEL, AND SENSITIVITIES.
WE ARE ALSO GLAD TO TELL YOU ABOUT PRESCRIPTION AND NONPRESCRIPTION CREAMS AND LOTIONS, AND PROCEDURES WHICH CAN PARTIALLY REVERSE SUN DAMAGE AND REJUVENATE SKIN. HOWEVER, PREVENTING THE DAMAGE IS BEST.