SUMMERTIME! Long hot days, BBQs, beaches…and a great time to update your skin care plan for the season. The most important (dermatology) advice in the summer is to avoid sunburn – pretty obvious, but something many of us preach better than we practice. Aside from causing redness and pain, repeated sunburns or even a few severe episodes is the most important risk factor for skin cancer and photoaging (otherwise known as wrinkles!). Sunlight includes visible light (the colors we see) and other frequencies that we cannot see, like ultraviolet light (UV). However, we can see the effects of UV light on our skin- as sunburn, eventually wrinkles and hopefully not skin cancer. Fortunately, prevention goes a long way and we can reduce these risks by using a good sunscreen every day. It’s like brushing and flossing, for your skin.
There are two classes of sunscreens approved by the FDA: physical blockers and chemical blockers. Physical blockers reflect UV light. Chemical blockers absorb UV light. Physical blocker sunscreens are generally more effective and act more quickly (as soon as they are applied) than chemical blockers (which take about 15-30 minutes to be absorbed into the skin). Recently, concern about unintended toxic effects of certain sunscreens have been raised. Hawaii recently banned over-the-counter chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate because they may damage living coral reefs. Avobenzone based chemical sunscreens were not banned. Physical blockers formulated with titanium or zinc nanoparticles have also raised concerns about absorption into the skin and other parts of the body, though most experts believe these products are safe. There are great new “non-nano” sunscreens available. Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, look for some key words on the label: broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB and SPF 15 or more. SPF values indicate how much UVB exposure (amount, not time; the sun is “stronger” in the middle of the day) is needed to cause sunburn compared to no sunscreen. Sunscreen is regulated by the FDA like a medication. If a sunscreen is not “Broad Spectrum SPF 15 or more”, it must carry a FDA warning of “Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert: Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.” The FDA also requires an expiration date on the label. If you are really interested in this topic, there is more detailed information on the FDA site.
At Savola Aesthetic Dermatology Center we follow the American Academy of Dermatology and recommend using a broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen every day for the most reliable protection (source). And remember, reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours if you are getting wet. Sunscreens are water-resistant, not waterproof. Our favorite sunscreens are high quality physical blockers such as Elta MD. We love these because they use zinc oxide for a strong physical barrier, but still feel smooth and light. Our team is happy to answer any questions you have about sunscreen or our other skin care recommendations.
Our PA-C Amy Randolph recently participated in a Q&A column in OurHealth Magazine. Here’s what she had to say about winter illnesses and psoriasis.
Can Strep Throat & Other Winter Illnesses Affect My Psoriasis?
Yes! While guttate psoriasis is relatively uncommon, up to 80% of patients with guttate psoriasis have had a recent streptococcal infection. It is more common in patients under the age of 30 and the outbreak can be their first episode of psoriasis which can last several weeks to a few months, may recur, or can develop into the chronic plaque-type of psoriasis. The rash appears as multiple, discrete, drop-shaped scaly, salmon-pink hue papules primarily on the trunk but can develop anywhere except the palms and soles. Diagnosis of guttate psoriasis is usually done clinically, however, with a first-time outbreak, a biopsy may be necessary to rule out the more common rash of pityriasis rosea. Treatment normally includes topical steroids and/or UVB light therapy. Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder, the common winter cold or flu can also be a trigger for a psoriasis outbreak.
The facts about actinic keratosis, or AK for short, can be scary:
It’s the most common precancer.
It affects more than 58 million Americans.
Left untreated, AKs may become life-threatening squamous cell carcinomas.
But it’s also a fact that YOU have more power than you may know when it comes to your skin health. Millions of people just like you have stopped cancer in its tracks. Here’s how…
Know What to Look For
Early detection is key to preventing and treating the development of skin cancer. Make a monthly skin check a part of your routine and take note of anything suspicious. Look for signs of AK such as scaly patches, red bumps with tan crusts, an area that feels like sandpaper, or anything that keeps coming back or doesn’t heal. The primary cause of AKs is chronic sun exposure, so pay particular attention to the face, lips, ears, scalp, shoulders, neck, hands, and forearms.
Choose Action Over Fear
Got questions or concerns? Don’t talk yourself out of taking action. Have we mentioned that early detection is your #1 asset? Pick up the phone and call your board-certified dermatologist for an appointment. Skin is our specialty. If we determine the spot you noticed is an AK, we have a host of treatment options right in our office.
Cryotherapy: Using this quick and simple procedure, your doctor applies liquid nitrogen to the AK, freezing the growth which will later fall off.
Photodynamic Therapy: This non-invasive treatment uses a strong blue light and a photosensitizing gel to destroy the AK cells. Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) is often used for treating multiple AKs on the face and scalp.
Topical Medications: These come in the form of creams, gels, and liquid solutions and are applied directly to the skin.
Laser Resurfacing: Your doctor uses a laser to remove the surface layer of the skin, destroying the AK cells.
Chemical Peel: Can also be used to remove the top layer of the skin to destroy AK cells.
Your skin is your body’s largest organ. Give it the love it deserves by protecting it and caring for it all year round. See something that concerns you? Set up an appointment with us at Savola Dermatology Center today. (540) 451-2833
In addition to UV exposure, other major risk factors include a personal or family history of skin cancers, fair skin that burns easily, immune-suppressing diseases or treatments, and atypical, larger, or numerous moles.
You know your body best. Don’t ignore your gut – if you notice something out of the ordinary or have any concerns, speak with your board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer can also develop where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s important to have yearly skin checks by a trained professional who can detect anomalies in areas you may have missed, as well as help monitor the health of your skin.
Please remember, early detection is key to treating skin cancer. If you have questions about your risks or have concerns about your skin, don’t hesitate to set up an appointment with us at Savola Aethetic Dermatology Center today. Same day medical and cosmetic appointments are available. (540) 451-2833