At University Park Dermatology, we are committed to a high standard of patient care. And, because we’re located in the Sunshine State, many of our patients come to us with concerns about sun damage and premature aging due to sun exposure.
While you’re enjoying the sun, sand and water along Sarasota’s extensive coastline this summer, you need to take steps to protect your skin from the harsh UV rays that accelerate the effects of aging and increase your risks of developing skin cancer.
Whether you’re swimming at Siesta Beach, or watching baby turtles hatch at Longboat Key, here are some of the most common myths about sun exposure you should be aware of before you head out to appreciate our gorgeous Gulf Coast beaches this summer.
Fiction: Tanned skin is healthier than pale skin.
Fact: While you may think your tan resembles a healthy glow, the real reason your skin tans is as a response to sun damage. In other words, a tan is your skin’s way of warning you that your skin cells and the underlying structures of your skin have suffered damage – even if you didn’t get a sunburn. Every time you tan deliberately, you are putting your health at risk.
Fiction: Sun exposure is OK in small doses.
Fact: Many people wrongly believe their skin did not suffer any damage, as long as they don’t have any redness or peeling. However, the reality is that any amount of sun exposure is damaging.
Fiction: People with darker skin don’t need to use sunscreen because they have built-in sun protection.
Fact: People with greater amounts of melanin are at just as much risk for sun damage as light-skinned people. In fact, the darker your skin, the harder it can be to tell if you are getting a sunburn. People who have darker skin tones may also be less careful when spending time outside and end up staying in the sun longer and more often, which equals more damage.
Fiction: I can’t get a sunburn on a cloudy day.
Fact: Even when it’s overcast, sun damage can still find you. If you’re planning to hit Venice Beach on a cloudy day, you should still wear sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat and a beach cover-up.
Fiction: The higher the SPF of my sunblock, the longer I can stay out in the sun.
Fact: SPF is not an indication of how long a product protects your skin from damaging UV rays, but how well it does so. Before going outside, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure the label says it is “noncomedogenic,” which means it won’t clog your pores, and be sure to reapply at least every two hours. A good rule of thumb is to apply at least a teaspoon on your face, and one ounce (enough to fill up a shot glass) to the rest of your body.
Fiction: I got most of my sun exposure as a kid, so I don’t need to worry as much about sun damage as an adult.
Fact: According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, on average, only 23 percent of sun exposure occurs by age 18. Since sun exposure is cumulative, you should be careful about preventing sun damage at every stage of your life.
Fiction: Sun damage is reversible.
Fact: The damage your skin sustains from the sun’s rays adds up throughout your life. You can prevent it, but there’s nothing you can do to undo it. Sun damage is the reason many of us age prematurely, with fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, hyperpigmentation and, of course, the most serious risk: skin cancer.
Fiction: I won’t get enough Vitamin D without sun exposure.
Fact: You may have read people need sunlight for their bodies to produce enough Vitamin D. However, most healthy people who eat a balanced diet are not at risk for a Vitamin D deficiency. Eating foods abundant in Vitamin D, such as milk, fortified orange juice, egg yolks, fatty fish and mushrooms, liver, and cod liver oil, should be more than enough to fulfill your Vitamin D requirements, and, if not, you can also get Vitamin D from multi-vitamins and other nutritional supplements. Also, even if you’re wearing sunscreen, small amounts of UV rays can still penetrate your skin, which will help your body produce Vitamin D.
Fiction: I’ll be safe from the sun as long as I stay in the shade.
Fact: While it’s true you’re better off in the shade than you are sitting in direct sunlight, UV rays do reflect off surfaces that surround you. Sand and water – which are impossible to avoid when you’re at the beach – are both highly reflective, so even if you have a beach umbrella to cover you, you’ll probably still get bombarded with more UV rays than you think.
Fiction: UV rays can’t make it through glass.
Fact: Glass only blocks one type of damaging radiation: UVB rays. However, UVA rays, which penetrate deeper, can still make it through. If you’re fair-skinned, you probably have more freckles and moles on the left half of your face than on your right, thanks to UV exposure coming through your car window when you drive. To protect yourself, always apply sunscreen to your hands, arms and face before you get into your car, especially in the spring and summer. By the same token, if you often sit near a window at home or at work, be sure to apply sunscreen regularly throughout the day to prevent sun damage.
Fiction: Tanning beds are safe to use.
Fact: Tanning beds can deliver a level of radiation that is many times greater than what you would get from spending the same amount of time outside. The UV radiation tanning beds emit is just as hazardous as the UV exposure you get from the sun. In fact, both the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have classified UV radiation as a human carcinogen.
If you live in the Sarasota area and are concerned about the long-term effects sun damage has left on your skin, contact our office today to schedule a consultation. We offer a variety of treatments to improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, and for patients with skin cancer, we provide Mohs micrographic surgery, the most advanced and effective way to remove skin cancer and prevent it from returning.