Skin Care Tips: Preparing for the Summer Sun

Dear Latonya:

I’ve always spent a lot of time outdoors all year round. I think it has finally caught up with me. The damage to my skin is becoming more and more obvious. From brown spots to dry skin, I feel like sun damage is making me look older.

Late night television seems to be full of infomercials promoting products that claim to be able to reverse the signs of aging. Is that even possible?

What can I do to treat my skin and protect it from further damage?

Diana in Columbus, Ohio

Dear Diana:

What a great question! If you’ve watched the evening news lately you probably already know that skin cancer is the leading form of cancer in this country.

The Statistics on Skin Cancer

One in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime. Between 1982 and 2011, the rate of Melanoma doubled. This is an especially alarming statistic because 75% of all skin cancer deaths are from Melanoma.

So in addition to the cosmetic concerns you expressed, there is also the potential for serious health risk from the sun.

The good news is skin cancer is largely preventable. It starts with learning more about sun protection.

Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

Protecting your skin begins with making a commitment to adopting a sun-safe lifestyle. This includes:

  1. Wear Sunscreen All Year: Apply sunscreen any time you will be outdoors or riding in your car. Skin cancer experts recommenda sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Don’t ease up on wearing sunscreen during winter months. The sun’s rays can be just as damaging when the weather is cold and the reflection off of the snow is high.
  2. Dress for Protection: A hat that shields your face from the sun, a loose-fitting, long-sleeved blouse and sunglasses are all good sun gear basics.
  3. Sunscreen Mistakes: A common mistake people make when applying sunscreen is not to apply it in areas they can’t see, like the back of the neck or ears. Another one is not applying enough sunscreen. The rule of thumb is to apply a shot glass amount of sunscreen every 4-6 hours. If you are working up a sweat in the heat or swimming, apply it even more frequently.
  4. Stay Hydrated: While most of us know that staying hydrated can help prevent sun stroke, did you also know that it’s good for your skin? Staying hydrated can also keep your skin from looking and feeling dry.
  5. Exfoliate Skin: Making sure you exfoliate your skin can get the dead skin cells off your body. That will help give your skin a more youthful appearance.
  6. Moisturize Often: Another good way to protect your skin and maybe even reverse the signs of sun damage is to moisturize your skin often. Chlorine from the pool or salt water at the beach can all have a dehydrating effect on the skin. Choose a moisturizer with hyaluronic acid for best results.

Depending upon how significant your sun damage is, a dermatologist may have medical interventions you can try.

I hope this helps, Diana!

Latonya

Nurse Practitioner

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