Summer is a time to be outside and enjoy the sun. However, sunlight is the main reason many develop skin cancer and wrinkles. Patients with fair or sensitive skin are even more at risk to the sun’s rays. But how do plastic surgeons and dermatologists manage sun exposure in the summer while minimizing risks such as skin cancer and facial wrinkles? No one wants to be a hermit.
Keep in mind that skin damage is due to the UVA and UVB radiation from the sun. The negative effect accumulates gradually so that we may not realize how much damage has occurred. Sun burns are extreme damage, and there is no such thing as a “good tan”. Even tiny bits of sun exposure during routine daily activities, ex. walking to your car, add up over a lifetime.
During summer months, one should be extra careful. Enjoy the summer responsibly.
Remember to Sunscreen Daily
One easy method to remember sunscreen daily is to put the bottle front-and-center of the bathroom sink and/or door of the house. You’re more likely to remember to put it on while preparing for the day, or as you’re about to leave the home. Research studies have shown that storing sunscreen by easy locations increased use as compared to storing it elsewhere. We have patients keep a bottle at the doorway, so no one in the family forgets.
Aim for minimum SPF 30 and Reapply
The SPF factor should be minimum of 30 for routine daily use. Higher doses are required for those extended times outside or high sun exposure areas. If you’re going to the beach or spending day outside, then go high SPF.
Sunscreens also wear down after only a couple hours. The protective effect is gone and no longer helps against UV rays. Reapply after 2 hours routinely.
Be Generous with Sunscreen
You really can’t put on too much. Studies have shown most don’t apply enough. You can consider sunscreen as a “second skin”. Consider applying in layers and rubbing in different direction to ensure adequate coverage. Ideally skin should be glistening after appropriate application.
The nose typically gets the most exposure, but don’t forget less common areas too, such as tops of ears, backs of hands, top of feet, and hairline. Another region that facial plastic surgeons see sun damage is the sides of the neck. The area under the chin area is generally protected, while the neck sides are sun exposed.
A good practice to remember is to start at the periphery, i.e. hairline, ears, neck sides, then work your way to the central face and nose.
Don’t forget the lips
The lips are prone to sun damage, especially the lower lips. Regular lip balms don’t protect from the sun and can potentially act to intensify sun damage. Make sure your lip products have broad spectrum UV protection too. Reapply more frequently, since normal lip movement, eating, and drinking makes the sunscreen go away faster.
Research has shown that caffeine may be protective in reducing the risk of some types of skin cancer. Read more about caffeine and skin cancer in our previous blog post. The scientific data is preliminary and evolving, and increased caffeine intake does not replace safe sun habits.
Practice sun protective lifestyle
Plastic surgeons and dermatologists also try to avoid being outside when the sun is the strongest, approximately between 10am and 4pm. UV damage is the most intense during this time.
Sun protective clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats, also protects against ultraviolet rays. Some even use a summer umbrella during peak sunny days.
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