Prevention truly is the ounce that limits the need for a pound of cure. Sun damage is sneaky. You "think" those beach days and poolside afternoons are just giving you a nice tan, but in effect, a tan is your body's attempt to protect itself from the damage of the sun's UVA and UVB rays. The UVB rays are the burning rays. The UVA rays do the interior damage that can end up causing actinic keratosis, deep hyperpigmentation or skin cancer.
Although it is one of the easiest ways to help protect your skin from UV radiation, there are still a few things to look out for when selecting which sunscreen you use and how you use it. Be sure to choose a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above and one that is also broad spectrum (this protects against UVA and UVB rays).
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Because sunscreens are different from sunblocks, you must give the chemical interaction that bit of time to start protecting your skin. And reapply during the day as you're out. One application in the morning isn't going to last the entire day.
Remember to apply everywhere, even areas such as the undersides of arms where the sun does not directly hit (the UV radiation can reflect off of water and other surfaces). Tops of ears, lips, front and back of the neck, too. At the pool? Don't forget your feet. Also, be sure to use enough and reapply often.
Sunblock is very similar to sunscreen, but also has zinc dioxide and/or titanium dioxide added and is immediately effective. Not only is some of the UV radiation absorbed by the chemicals in the sunblock, but these two added compounds also help by reflecting a lot of the radiation, before it reaches the skin. Although more effective than sunscreen alone, not all are transparent. Certain sunblocks do have invisible coverage. Ask us.
Sunscreen and sunblock have their places in preventing sun damage. However, a barrier to sunlight reaching the skin, such as a long sleeve shirt or long skirt/pants, is incredibly effective at blocking the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation from damaging your skin cells. If the temperature permits, opt for clothing that covers most of your body. Many lighter-weight materials still stay cool while offering excellent UV protection.
If you want to learn more about the prevention of sun damage or have concerns with potential skin cancer, contact our team at Rebecca Fitzgerald Dermatology in Los Angeles, CA at 323-464-8046, or visit www.rebeccafitzgeraldmd.com to schedule a consultation, today.