“Remember, there is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan.”

“A ‘tan’ is damaged skin trying to protect itself from solar radiation exposure (sun rays).” Dr. M.

In recent years a great deal of publicity has been given to risk associated with sun exposure. The most dangerous and fearsome risk is development of malignant melanoma which can be a lethal tumor. Other skin tumors which can develop from chronic sun exposure include squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, pre-cancerous lesions (actinic keratoses), sunburns, photo-aging (wrinkles and brown age spots), photosensitivity disease and cataract formation.

It is now clear that sunburn should be avoided by persons of all ages. Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, when under age 15 is now known to be a major risk factor for later development of such skin cancers as melanoma. Therefore, protection of the skin of children is important even at a young age. 

It is also important to understand that the solar radiation damaging effect is cumulative. This is particularly important in individuals who live in southern climates, especially Florida. Be aware that individuals who develop skin cancer do not always necessarily have a history of sun bathing. Those individuals who enjoy recreational activities outdoors or work outdoors are also at increased risk.

Several things can be done to reduce the risk of solar radiation damage. First, avoid the noon day sun (between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.) and do not use tanning beds. When available, try to seek shade and use protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts, wide brim hats, etc. The most important protective measure is regular application of sunscreen. Regular use of sunscreen has been shown to decrease risk for the development of squamous cell skin cancer. My personal recommendation is a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen Info.

The clothing you wear can make a big difference in the amount of UV light damage you receive. Hats, especially wide brim hats are good, but don’t be lured into a false sense of security with a hat. Although hats may block 80-85% of the sun on the brow, the further down on your face you go the less protection you have. It can be as low as 10-15% on on the lower third of your face, so still use those sunscreens. Clothing varies in degree of sun protecting abilities, the weave, the material and coloring can all affect transmission of UV light. Wet clothes generally offer less protection than dry. The Solumbria brand of clothing offer very good UV protection. Consider too washing your clothes with RIT Sunguard which is a laundry additive which gives extra sun protection to clothing.

Can’t be seen in public without a tan? Try a “tan in a bottle” instead of permanently damaging your skin by exposing it to harmful ultraviolet rays. Bottled tans are harmless and far better for your skin. Remember, applied tans do not provide any sunscreen protection to your skin. 

What if the damage has already been done? You grew up at the beach or spent much of your youth in the sun, you now use sunscreens but you now notice, rough textured skin, fine lines around the eyes, blotchy irregular pigmentations, and fine red blood vessels and patches. Prevention is ten times better than trying to reverse sun damage but there are a few things that can be done to help reverse some of the damage.

Treatments which can help:

RetinA , Kinerase, Vitamin C “There are only a few topical agents that have evidence based medicine showing reversal in sun damage” Dr. M.

Moisturizing Lotions

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Chemical Peels

Facial Laser Rejuvenation

© John “Lucky” Meisenheimer, M.D.  2019