As spring nears, days become longer, and our Texas temperatures begin to warm, outdoor activities become increasingly popular. As each year passes we are bombarded with new articles informing us about what we should or shouldn’t be doing to protect ourselves from our sworn enemy, the sun; whether it is “in” or “out” to be tan; and whether the sun is good or bad this season. The truth of the matter is the sun can be good, bad, and sometimes ugly if we let it by not taking care of our skin.
When you look around in nature, plants and trees even the need the sun to grow- for photosynthesis. The sun does have good benefits for our bodies. Studies have shown that ten to fifteen minutes of daily exposure combined with a healthy balanced diet should produce the average adult with all the Vitamin D they need. Vitamin D boosts the body’s immune system, promotes calcium absorption, contributes to strong bones, and supports a healthy nervous system while flushing out toxins. The spring season, and therefore longer exposure to the sun, can improve your mood chemically and even prevent depression. Sunlight also stimulates the pineal gland which produces certain types of chemicals called ‘tryptamines.’ One type of tryptamine, melatonin, keeps our body clock aware of night and day and the changing seasons. As with most anything sun exposure in moderation is beneficial, too much is harmful.
Up to ninety percent (90%) of the visible skin changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun. Photo-aging is often the first sign that your skin has been damaged when it is tanned or burned. Repeated exposure and damage can lead to skin cancer. Generally the body will rid itself of damaged cells, however the ultraviolet light in the sunrays lowers the body’s immune system, making it difficult to destroy and eliminate damaged cells. It is these damaged cells that can slowly grow to produce a cancerous tumor. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States . There are over one million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the United States each year, outnumbering all other cancers combined. While once a popular myth that the use of tanning beds would decrease the risk of skin cancer, people who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, and increases melanoma risk by 75 percent. And regardless if you are in a tanning bed or outdoors, a person’s risk for skin cancer doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns.
Mother Nature will take her toll on everyone’s skin, even the best of us. The sun causes hyper pigmentation of the skin, accelerated aging (photo-aging), and slower healing. Luckily, many treatments for photo-aging not only restore the skin’s youthful appearance; they also reduce your risk for developing pre-cancers and/or skin-cancer. New clinical treatments can virtually give you overnight results.
Turning Back the Hands of Time
Lasers such as Fraxel and Pixel are used to vaporize the skin’s sun-damaged top layer, exposing a softer, smoother skin surface. As a result, there is softening of lines and wrinkles, fading of some scars, removal of hyper pigmentation, and stimulation of new collagen growth quickly. With their pinpoint accuracy, lasers are ideal for sensitive skin areas such as around the eyes and are effective treatment of actinic keratoses, as well.
IPL (intense pulsed light) is a non-skin-removing technique (“non-ablative”) that offers patients a softening of lines, removal of broken capillaries, and stimulation of new collagen growth. Usually several sessions are needed for optimal results.
For mild to moderate photo-aging, microdermabrasion or chemical peels can be used to rejuvenate the skin.
Prescription skincare products, such as retinoids and hydroquinone, can substantially reverse sun-damage over a period of time.
Simple Prevention and Planning Tips
The best way to combat The Bad is through prevention. Apply sunscreen or sun block with an SPF of 15 or higher (especially to areas vulnerable to photo-aging). For those who do not like to wear sunscreen, look for unscented formulas or try a sport sunscreen. They are designed to absorb quickly without leaving a greasy or sticky residue. When applying your sun-protection do not forget your ears, nose, lips, neck, hands, and toes. Wear sunglasses with UV protection. The sun can also cause damage to your eyes, such as cataracts or permanent damage.