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How to Protect your Skin this Summer

Summer is the time when you come out to enjoy the sun after a long winter. Unfortunately ultraviolet light can have adverse effects on your skin. Unprotected sun exposure and sunburns increase your risk of skin cancers such as squamous and basal cell carcinomas as well as melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. In a recent study by the Skin Cancer Foundation, 42 percent of all individuals reported getting sunburned at least once a year.

To keep your skin young looking and healthy follow these easy tips.

1. Always wear your sunscreen – Sunscreen contains organic and inorganic active ingredients. Inorganic ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium oxide reflect or scatter ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Organic ingredients like octyl methoxycinnamate (OMC) or oxybenzone absorb UV radiation, dissipating it as heat. Some sunscreens protect us from the two types of damaging UV radiation: UV-A and UV-B. Both UV-A and UV-B cause sunburns and damaging effects such as skin cancer.

2. What is the best sunscreen for me? An SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays; an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays; and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays. So if you use at least a SPF 15 product you will be fine. Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes to 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and after you sweat or swim. If you wear foundation, apply sunscreen as well as foundation or buy foundation that has sunscreen in it. Protective clothing with SPF 50 is available at sporting and camping stores.

3. Limit your time in direct sunlight to 15 minutes a day. Remember to cover up with a hat, clothing and apply UVA/UVB-blocking sunscreen, preferably with zinc oxide. Plan to do outdoor activities such as gardening before 11am or after 4pm, when the sun is not as strong.

4. Eat antioxidant foods containing beta-carotene, plus other carotenoids such as lutein and lycopene, may help protect the skin against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Examples are red and orange foods — like tomatoes and orange peppers . These tasty vegetables offer natural protection from the sun, and may help repair cells after sun damage, so grill some at your next barbecue. Grilling in moderation is important. Grilling, frying, and roasting can produce compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the foods we eat. These AGEs damage the protein collagen, which may lead to wrinkles and contribute to skin aging. When you grill, use acidic marinades such as lemon juice or vinegar and add herbs and spices like ginger, cinnamon, sage, marjoram, tarragon, and rosemary, to reduce AGE formation.

5. What do I do if I get a sunburn?

Immediately apply 90% aloe vera gel or the “juice” squeezed directly from the aloe plant. Aloe vera is used as a treatment for sunburn in every tropical culture. It soothes damaged skin and may help to prevent the burn from deepening. If you don’t have aloe, apply a moisturizing lotion that doesn’t contain alcohol. Avoid further sun exposure on burn areas.

A sunburn with blisters is a second-degree burn and puts you at high risk for skin problems. Consider seeing a doctor if your sunburn has blistered.

6. When do I call a doctor?

If you notice any sunburn that is painful, a mark, bump, blemish, or mole that is changing, growing, or bleeding, call your doctor or see a physician at AFC Urgent Care Watertown. Skin cancer is treatable when it’s found early.

Some drugs that you put on your skin, such as Renova and Retin-A or some antibiotics, can make your skin very sensitive and cause it to burn quickly. If you use these treatments, ask your doctor how to protect your skin from the sun.

By Dr. Scharukh Jalisi