OakLeaf Medical Network Healthy Viewpoints, Winter 2003
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Dr. Caryn Schulz, MD


Summer Sun Skin Protection

By Caryn Schulz, MD
Dermatology, Eau Claire

Enjoying Wisconsin's wonderful outdoors is definitely something we all look forward to in the summer. Taking the right precautions to protect our skin from the harm that too much summer sun can cause, takes just a few minutes.

Sunscreen is very important in preventing sunburns, premature aging of the skin and the development of sun-induced skin cancers. The question is which sunscreen should you use? Check the label and look for:

PABA Free. PABA is irritating and may cause an allergic reaction. There are good alternatives.

Waterproof. It is important to remember that they do come off with repeated exposure to water and perspiration. If you are outdoors for long periods of time, you need to reapply your sunscreen about every two hours.

Non-Comedogenic. This means it will not plug your pores, nor aggravate acne. This is particularly important for those who are already being treated for acne or have oily acne-prone skin.

Broad Spectrum. Blocking both UVA and UVB rays.

Number 15 or Higher. You do not need to buy a number 40 or 50. A number 15 or 30 is adequate. A higher number is not warranted and it may irritate the skin.

In addition to the application of sunscreen to your skin, it is important to use a sunscreen product for lips. A number 15 will be adequate. If you wear foundation, powder or moisturizer, buy products for summer that have sunscreen in them. Hats should be worn, too. There are many attractive styles to help keep the sun off your face. Don't forget sunglasses. Be sure that the lenses are "broad spectrum", to include UVA and UVB rays. Sun damage can lead to cataracts, as well as skin cancers on the eyelids and close to the eye. Remember to wear sunglasses and sunscreen while you are driving a car. The windows on the car largely block UVB rays, but cancer causing UVA rays still come through glass.

Unfortunately, sunscreens do not protect against malignant melanoma, the most dangerous common skin tumor, therefore protective clothing is necessary. There are several companies that make clothing that is very effective in protecting the skin from sun exposure. There is also a product, made by RIT dye company that increases the protective nature of clothing. Added to the water when laundering clothes, it only needs to be applied approximately once every 30 washings.

The most important thing to remember about summertime skin care is to protect your skin from sunburn. Avoid sun exposure during peak sun hours: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Do not tan in a tanning bed in order to make yourself tolerant of outdoor sun. Tanning beds damage the skin, causing wrinkling and inducing skin cancers. Twenty minutes in a tanning booth does as much damage as twelve hours of mid-day sun. If you wish your skin to be "tanned", there are many good safe artificial tanning products available. If you find that you have gotten a serious sunburn, including blisters, seek the care of your physician or a dermatologist.

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Caryn Schulz » 715.839.9400