Sun stimulation of the skin produces a change that many people want, "a healthy tan". This sun tan is not healthy, but a warning that the skin has been damaged. Ignore repeated warnings and you can end up with wrinkles, age spots and worst of all, skin cancer.
The sun produces ultraviolet light and these ultraviolet rays penetrate the skin causing damage. Tanning beds produce similar ultraviolet rays and invoke similar skin damage. Excessive skin exposure to the sun (photoaging) will accelerate the natural aging breakdown of the skin.
Skin is comprised of the outer layer epidermis and deeper layer or dermis. With age, the dermis becomes more fragile as the skin actually thins out. Oil producing sebaceous glands are less active and skin becomes drier. In addition, skin replaces older cells more slowly and cells repair themselves less effectively. This results in a slower turnover time of surface skin, persistence of damaged cells, and predisposition to further degeneration to skin cancer.
Treatment begins with prevention. Despite recent challenges, sun block is still one of our best weapons. The following are my practical and easily implemented recommendations. Many patients routinely use daily moisturizing and makeup products. The market has responded with many common lotion products incorporating SPF15 or higher. These are easy to use, non-greasy, usually non-irritating to facial skin, and available at most drug stores. Daily use provides excellent protection for most routine daily activities. With more intense sun exposure (e.g. golfing, picnics, etc.), use the more commercial products with an SPF of 30 or higher. If these sting closer to the eyes then use the moisturizer product closer to the eyes as it will be better tolerated and the heavier blocks on the rest of the face (and do not forget the ears!). Use water resistant sunscreens for swimming or sweating outdoor sports and do not forget to reapply after two to three hours.
Sunglasses should have protection against both ultraviolet A and B sunlight. Remember to wear protection for both summer and snow activities. Wide brimmed hats provide enhanced facial skin protection and the clothing industry has developed lines of clothing dedicated to sun protection.
Monitoring changes in your skin will alert you to any new skin spots or moles, as well as changes in size, shape, or color of existing moles. Should this occur consult your doctor. Our best defense for battling skin cancer is protection and prevention. Remember, it is easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.