Friday, 13 May 2011 19:25

Understanding Sun Protection

Written by   Lynda Valdez

We are all visual people, especially when it comes to our appearance and how our skin looks. Even though recent studies show that the number of diagnosed skin cancer cases each year continues to increase, a lot of people think first about the outside cosmetic effects of tanning and sun exposure. Regardless, we all must understand that proper sun care is key for our skin and overall health. We also have to comprehend that effective sun coverage requires more effort than just slopping some lotion on when you arrive at the beach. Healthy and sunburn-free skin starts with recognizing the myths and facts.

However, before discussing the myths and facts, a background of your skin is an important foundation. 

Anatomy of the Skin
The skin is the largest organ of the body and it serves a lot of functions. It protects from the environment’s harmful elements. It also protects from sun damage due to melanin pigments in the skin. It helps circulate body temperature by warming up and cooling off the body as needed. It gives the sensation of touch, feel, and pressure because of the numerous nerve endings present in the skin. The skin has three layers: epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layer.
The epidermis has five sub-layers. It’s the outermost layer of the skin, and it mostly consists of dead cells which are continuously shed off and replaced by new cells beneath. The dermis is the little layer composed of connective tissue containing collagen and elastin as well as blood vessels, nerves, glands, and hair follicles. Meanwhile, the subcutaneous layer is composed of adipose tissue.

The Top Myths
It is safe to stay out in the sun as long as you reapply sunscreen every two hours. It’s never safe to stay out in the sun.
The length of protection offered by a sunscreen depends on two factors, the amount of time it takes for an individual to get burnt and the Sun Protection Factor (SPF). For example, it takes about 10 minutes to burn without protection, an SPF of 8 will give you about one hour of protection. If you intend to stay out in the sun, take into consideration the overlap time. It takes roughly 20 minutes for sunscreen to prepare the skin for protection. Therefore, I recommend using the highest SPF possible and reapply
every hour.
Using an SPF 30+ means you’re totally protected from the sun. SPF 30+ only protects the skin from 96 percent of the sun’s rays. So the only real way of guaranteeing you are totally protected from the sun is by covering up from head to toe, and wearing sun protected clothing.
“Water-resistant” or “waterproof” sunscreen will last longer. Even these formulas will wear off after 30 minutes or more spent in the water, or after excessive sweating. They can also easily run off when you towel-dry after a swim.
If you wear a foundation with an SPF, then you don’t need to also wear sunscreen. Most foundations that contain sun protection, do not offer broad spectrum protection from UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays). The type of protection offered by foundations also depends on whether the ingredients create a physical sunscreen or chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens act as a physical block; they reflect or scatter UV rays. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays, lowering their energy levels and releasing the energy as heat. It’s important to always wear a broad spectrum sunscreen, even if wearing a foundation with SPF.
You don’t need sunscreen if you have dark skin. Even people with deeply pigmented skin, who rarely burn, should use sunscreen. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, is subject to the potential adverse affects of overexposure to the sun. New research from the University of Cincinnati shows that dark-skinned people, commonly thought to be “immune” to most skin cancers, are more likely than light-skinned people to die from skin cancer and its related complications.
You don’t need sunscreen in the winter. Don’t let shade give you a false sense of security. According to research, snow can reflect 80 percent of the sun’s rays. The rays cannot only penetrate through umbrellas and straw shades, but they can also bounce off sand, water, concrete, and other reflective surfaces.
You don’t need to wear sunscreen if you are going to be inside all day. Studies show that only about 20 percent of sun damage is incurred by lying on the beach. The other 80 percent happens while walking outside, driving in the car, or sitting beside a window. Additionally, most people do not realize that UVA rays are also emitted by fluorescent lights and computer screens, so constant protection is essential.
Sun protection is only through sunscreens. Independent laboratory tests have shown that many typical cotton T-shirts and summerweight fabrics can allow 50 percent of harmful UVB rays through to your skin when dry, and 10 to 20 percent more when wet. An open-mesh baseball cap or open weave straw hat can be just as bad or worse. Today, there are several clothing brands that use fabrics that provide added sun protection. The fabrics are tightly woven/knit and may (or may not) be chemically treated with UV inhibitors.
Tanning solariums are safer than the sun. The idea that solariums are safe is terribly misleading. I tell my clients that 20 minutes of exposure in a tanning bed is roughly equivalent to four hours in the sun. Sun solariums use UVA mostly, which penetrates more deeply into the skin than UVB. Solariums do not usually cause sunburn because only about five percent of the rays from the solarium are UVB, but the other 95 percent of UVA rays are primarily responsible for premature aging and
skin cancer.

The Facts
We have cells in our skin called melanocytes. The job of the melanocyte is to protect the fibroblasts and keratinocytes, and the melanocyte does this by multiplying and enlarging to cover and protect these cells. This protection gives us a tan. However, over time the melanocyte becomes exhausted from overstimulation. The melancyte can no longer adequately protect the fibroblasts and kerotinocytes from the sun, and they begin to be damaged as well. The exhausted melanocyte leaves you with brown spots and uneven skin tones.
The fibroblast is also affected. After a lot of sun, your skin is unable to produce collagen and elastin effectively. Without new collagen fibers, the skin begins to sag. That’s when people start to notice fine lines forming under and around their eyes.
In addition, when the keratinocyte is damaged, the very top layer of the skin thickens. The keratinocyte loses its normal shape and becomes irregular. This results in thick, rough, and course skin, along with a loss in that youthful glow.
Also, UV radiation causes the walls of blood vessels to become thinner leading to bruising. For example, most of the bruising that occurs on sun-damaged skin occurs on the backs of the hands and forearms. Additionally, the sun causes the appearance of telangiectasias, tiny blood vessels, in the skin especially on the face. Many people might believe that this will not happen to them, or that the harmful and very visible skin damage only happens when you are old. I tell my clients that the time they will have to enjoy a tan from the sun is far less than the time they will see the affects of sun damaged skin in their lifetime.

What is Proper Sun Care?
The bottom line is to always wear sunscreen, and one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it an hour before going in the sun and reapply every hour unless you have been sweating or have gotten wet; in that case apply more often.
SPF 30 gives approximately 96 percent protection, while SPF 45 gives approximately 98 percent, so the two percent makes, on a practical level, little difference. But we tend not to use enough sunscreen, so it’s a good idea to wear a higher number as insurance since spreading sunscreen too thinly diminishes its SPF factor. It takes about half a teaspoon of sunscreen to cover your face and neck and at least an ounce or shot glass of lotion to cover an average-sized body.
When shopping for products, I recommend looking for a seal of approval. You want to use sunscreens that provide broad spectrum UV-coverage and carry the seal of the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and/or the Skin Cancer Foundation. Both organizations recognize sunscreens that contain Parsol 1789, Mexoryl, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide for UVA protection; PABA derivatives, salicylates, and cinnamates (octylmethoxycinnamate and cinoxate) for UVB absorption; and benzophenones (such as oxybenzone and sulisobenzone) for shorter-wavelength UVA protection.
Also, use a vitamin C serum before you apply sunscreen. Vitamin C is one of the relatively few topical agents whose effectiveness against wrinkles and fine lines is backed by a fair amount of reliable scientific evidence showing that it reverses signs of aging to the skin. I recommend that everyone put vitamin C onto their face daily because it protects against UV- induced cell damage. It is this sun damage that not only causes premature aging, but also skin cancers. Vitamin C was originally used in skin care products in the form of ascorbic acid. According to numerous doctors, at a 10 percent concentration and low pH, ascorbic acid has been shown to stimulate collagen, decrease wrinkle depth, and have lightening effects on pigmentation. It was thought that a minimum 10 percent concentration was required, but newer information indicates that a lower concentration (five percent) may have benefits. It is best to stay with products that have this concentration or above.
In addition, I tell people that want a tan to consider self tanners or spray tan as an effective alternative. There are excellent self tanning options available and fantastic spray tans.

Sunscreen as a Daily Routine
Sunscreen is the most important part of a daily skin care regimen. A great trick is to tell clients to purchase two moisturizers: one for night and one for day that includes UV protection. I do not advise to use moisturizers with sunscreen at night because the ingredients are not meant to be used 24/7 and can aggravate the skin.
In an ideal world, I would be able to convince people to stop laying out in the sun or tan. However, I understand that the likelihood of that happening is very slim. It’s proven that the sun sets off endorphins, therefore making you feel good. People get addicted, but that addiction will make you look very old and wrinkled before your time. So, my goal is to inform people of the dangers of sun exposure on your outer appearance, and most importantly your health, along with keeping the focus on wearing sunscreen and sun protected clothing at all times.

Sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm for maintaining vibrant, healthy skin while minimizing signs of aging, Lynda Valdez is reaching out to help guests at The Med Spa at Daireds Salon & Spa Pangéa. She is trained in cosmetic procedures such as administering Botox, Restylane, and Radiesse, as well as being certified to perform laser procedures such as skin rejuvenation and hair reduction. Before joining The Med Spa at Daireds, Lynda Valdez, APRN, BC, practiced family medicine and neurosurgery. A Registered Nurse since 1973, Valdez’s experience extends to emergency medicine, intensive and coronary care and a private practice consulting hospitals in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex regarding advanced skin and wound care.
Valdez earned a Bachelor degree in Nursing and a Masters degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner from the University of Texas at Arlington. 817-465-9797


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