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Summer Fun Without The Burn

by | Jun 6, 2022 | Health

With temperatures reaching into the 90’s last week, and people heading out to sunny places for vacation, I thought it would be good to review sun protection strategies. I love to bask in the sun and was part of the generation that used baby oil and iodine to get a great tan, and “Sun In” to bleach my hair. My how times have changed and many of us are paying the price for that nonsense! As research into skin cancer has become more robust, we have learned about the horrific effects of UV radiation from the sun to our skin. Not only do UV rays damage our skin in a manner that can lead to skin cancers, but it also makes you look OLD. Notice people with hobbies and occupations that keep them in the sun a lot and you will often see facial skin that is wrinkled and looks like leather. In a world filled with expensive anti-aging cosmetics, it makes no sense to allow yourself too much sun exposure and then hope to cancel it out with expensive collagen creams or anti-aging serums.

So, if you want to avoid damage to your skin and maintain healthy young-looking appearance, there are some NEW ideas about avoiding sun damage.

Dr. Denton

Dr. Melanie Denton-Dombrowsk

Dr. Eaton

Dr. Philip Eaton

THE SKINNY ON SUNSCREENS

I spoke with Dr. Philip Eaton, of Dermatology Group of the Carolinas, located here in Rowan County on Gateway Drive off Julian Road. Dr. Eaton is a Board Certified and Fellowship trained dermatologist who has been in practice since 2008. He shared his thoughts about some of the more recent research and advice about protection from the sun. We discussed the current market for sunscreens – which is massive. He says that we should always use at least a “SPF” of 30. Greater is good, but doesn’t necessarily provide as much more protection as you would think. According to Dr. Eaton, “the most important factor is to reapply the sunscreen frequently – at least every two hours and even every hour if you are sweating or getting wet.” I asked if it was better to use a lotion vs. a spray. He says both are fine but it is important to apply them correctly. He says that most guys prefer a spray, probably because it seems easier to apply, but with a spray, you have to be careful to get it all over your exposed skin and “not just a stripe down your arm.” He suggests spraying it on and then rubbing it in to be sure you have covered everywhere – backs of arms and legs and around bathing suit edges that may shift during movement. And definitely spray it onto your hands and then rub it on your face so you aren’t inhaling the aerosol.  Also, don’t forget your head if you are bald or thinning, and the tops of your feet. I have seen some major sunburns on tops of feet, and that can be miserable and truly ruin a vacation. Also, make sure your sunscreen isn’t old. Check for expiration dates and discard it if it is out of date. I found some in my beach bag last week with an expiration date of 2018. It probably would be useless, so into the garbage it went. Another helpful product is zinc oxide. It provides total sunblock but can look weird. Zinka makes colored zinc oxide which many lifeguards use on the nose and cheeks and could be coordinated with your swim suit colors if you really want to be in style.

SUN PROTECTION CLOTHING

The next topic we covered is what is new in sun protective clothing. Most of the sportswear manufacturers are now making clothing that is UPF rated (ultraviolet protection factor) UPF of 40 or greater is ideal and the manufacturers are making shirts – both long sleeved and short- as well and shorts and long pants with UPF of 45-50. For children, swim shirts are a wonderful strategy, but make sure they have a good UPF rating. “Just wearing a regular t shirt in the sun, only gives you a protection factor of about 10,” according to Dr. Eaton. It is also important to wear hats in the sun. Many of the sun hats available now even have a flap in back to cover your neck. If you are going to be out mowing or doing yard work, also be sure to wear gloves. The backs of hands are a common site for skin cancer development because most people neglect to cover them throughout the years, and years of exposure add up. You sometimes see golfers who develop skin cancer on the hand they do NOT wear a golf glove. With baseball players who wear ball caps, it is not unusual for them to develop skin cancers later in life on the sides of their faces which were not covered by the hat, and where they neglected to wear sunscreen.

We want to balance our sun exposure in a manner to get the maximum benefit of Vitamin D, but also prevent skin damage. This can be a delicate balancing act. Vitamin D is essential to our health and especially our bones, and there is a lot of focus currently on taking Vitamin D supplements. However, the best way to get Vitamin D is through foods such as milk and Vitamin D fortified orange juice. But UV rays are needed to help convert the Vitamin D you get through foods to the body’s useful form.  Many people are afraid of using sunscreen for fear it will lower their vitamin D levels. But according to the American Cancer Society website, a person gets plenty of UV rays for Vitamin D conversion even when using sunscreen. Remember that sunscreen protects against many but not ALL UV rays, so if you are getting outside for more than 30 minutes a day, you should get plenty of UV rays for Vitamin D conversion even when following all the other advice about sun protection.

Try to limit sun exposure during the hours that the sun is overhead in the sky because that is when the UV rays are the most intense. This is generally between 10 am and 2p or even 4p.  And what about a cloudy day or when you are in the shade? Unfortunately, UV rays penetrate the clouds. Many people fail to put on sun screen when it is cloudy, and end up with a burn they can’t understand. Also, UV rays can be reflected off cement  or the sand. So just because you are “under the umbrella” or in the shade doesn’t mean you aren’t getting exposed to UV rays.

 

MAKEUP AND EYEWEAR

For those who wear make-up, finding makeup with a high SPF also helps. EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Tinted Face Sunscreen was recommended to me, and I love it. I wear it every day, summer and winter as my makeup and order it from Amazon.  However, you can’t get lazy and fail to reapply it. Some experts recommend using it AFTER you have applied a base of regular sunscreen of 30 or more for extra facial protection. Also, a lip protection with SPF is also important to remember, as your lips are out front and take the brunt of the UV rays.  Finally, don’t forget about your eyes. Protective sunglasses are essential to prevent eye damage from the sun, and also to prevent unsightly squint marks from developing over time. Dr. Melanie Denton-Dombrowski, an optometrist with Salisbury Eyecare and Eyewear on Council St. in Salisbury, advises that the good sunglasses are essential and can help slow the development of cataracts as well as other eye diseases. For non-prescription sunglasses, she recommends sunglasses that have full UV-400 protection, are polarized, and are antiglare, especially on the side toward your eye. She has a UV meter in her office if you want to have your sunglasses checked to see if they meet these requirements. Brands you might consider are Coast, Maui 10, Zeal, or Goodr. You can get most of these on-line and they are great to use as pool/lake/beach sunglasses. Dr. Denton also says, “don’t forget your eyelids! Be sure to apply a mineral based sunscreen on your eyelids, which is where 8-10% of melanoma skin cancers occur.” The EltaMD Face sunscreen previously referenced is great for eyelids and doesn’t have chemicals that irritate the eyes.

So, with summer within reach and having been cooped up for almost two years due to the pandemic, we are all anxious to bask in the sun and enjoy the wonderful weather. But please do so safely and take advantage of the new concepts in protecting yourself from harmful rays!

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About The Author

Dari Caldwell

I was born and raised on the northern end of Kannapolis, NC and after college (UNC Chapel Hill and Duke University) I lived away from North Carolina for 12 years, during which I earned a doctorate in Health Care Administration. My career has been in healthcare for over 40 years and in addition to being a Registered Nurse, I have held healthcare executive positions in Los Angeles, California, New York, Concord, Charlotte, and finally completed my career as President of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, where I retired in 2020. I live in and love Rowan County and have enjoyed immersing myself in the community on various volunteer boards such as Rowan Cabarrus Community College, Rowan Chamber of Commerce, Rowan Economic Development, Novant Hospice Advisory, Healthy Rowan, and am now Board Chair for the Rowan Board of Health. In retirement, my husband David and I have enjoyed our hobby of vegetable gardening, and visiting our children. We have two sons – Trent, who is the head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Lenoir Rhyne and is married to Brittany. They have 3 children including brand new twins! Our younger son Chris lives in Shreveport, Louisiana where he is an orthopedic surgery resident physician. We love sports, and also enjoy time at the lake, the beach, and with my 93 year old very spry mother!