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One of the most common problems my patients have is sun-damaged skin. Over the years ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes dyspigmentation (abnormal color), atrophy (thinning), and rhytids (wrinkles).
While there are many medications, products, and procedures that can help improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, the best way to have beautiful skin is to prevent the damage from ever occurring. I know that here in Arizona it is extremely difficult to completely avoid the sun, but there are several things you can do to significantly reduce your exposure, and thereby limit the damage to your skin and the need for restorative treatment.
The first step is to minimize your outdoor activities during the peak daylight hours (11:00 a.m. to 2:00p.m. in the winter and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00p.m. in the summer). The second step is protective clothing, including long sleeves, pants, and a broad-brimmed hat, which are more effective than sunscreens since clothing can block the sun’s rays, provided the weave of the cloth is tight enough. The last layer of protection is sunscreen. Obviously, here in Arizona this is what most of us depend on for our protection against the sun since we are outside frequently during the day, and the normal attire is shorts and a short sleeved shirt.
There are a few keys to using sunscreen appropriately that I would like to emphasize. The main key is to use enough of the sunscreen. Studies have shown that most of us use approximately 25% of the recommended amount, which manufacturers use to determine SPF (sun protection factor). What this means is that even if you have a sunscreen that is SPF 65, it becomes an SPF of 2.8 when you use one quarter of the normal amount. The other key is to use sunscreen daily. If you apply sunscreen to the same area every day, the SPF factor increases significantly because the skin retains a portion of it for several days. It will also protect you during those times that you find yourself outside when you didn’t expect to be there.
If you follow these simple guidelines you can keep your skin beautiful longer, minimize the amount of restorative treatment, and reduce your risk of skin cancer.