What person hasn’t experienced this unwelcome jolt? You look in the mirror and ask, “Who is that? I don’t feel that old.” When you weren’t looking (because mostly you’re not), your skin was succumbing to the ravages of time. Age spots, wrinkles, blotchiness, or leather skin might be staring right back at you. It can come as quite a shock!
Depending on the genes you inherit, your skin may age faster than the next person’s. Yet lifestyle factors such as exposure to the sun also have a big impact on your skin. In fact, recent studies of twins show that as much as 40 percent of aging-related skin changes have nothing to do with your parents. Instead, they’re from factors you can control.
In addition to sun exposure – and gravity, which you can’t control – other causes of skin aging include:
So, you can’t exactly turn back the hands of time. But you can do some things to slow them down. Stay out of the sun during the hours of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest – from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. When in the sun, protect yourself with a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and sunscreen. Use sunscreen with ultraviolet A and B protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. It’s important to remember that skin cancer can also result from too much exposure to the sun.
Of course you can ask a dermatologist about the wide range of options for anti-aging treatments. They include everything from topical treatments and injectable fillers to laser resurfacing and facelifts. 1 But know that it’s easy to fall prey to the promises of instant youth. It’s so inviting that Americans spend billions each year on skin products.
Dermatologists suggest that you really do your homework before you buy skin products. That’s because claims are often too good to be true. Also, just because a product is expensive doesn’t mean it is necessarily better. And, not all products work for everyone. As a general rule, make sure the product you buy contains an active ingredient with evidence of anti-aging effectiveness. Some examples are retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids, azelaic acid, salicylic acid, and vitamins C and E applied directly on your skin. A good moisturizer is also important.
If you’re looking for an over-the-counter skin product, I can provide you an overview of the latest treatment options. Of course, your dermatologist is another reliable source.
Remember that it’s not just about what you put on your skin that matters. Good nutrition and drinking at least eight glasses of water each day can also make a big difference.
Ever been mistaken for Casper the Friendly Ghost? Even if you’re not quite that white, you might still value a nice tan. Many people think a little color gives them a healthier –maybe even sexier – look.
So isn’t it ironic that getting that glorious tan can actually put you at risk?
When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – whether from the sun or a tanning device – your skin reacts by producing more melanin. That’s the pigment that darkens your skin. In addition to bringing on premature wrinkling, skin spots, and a “lovely” leathery look down the road, tanning can also suppress your body’s immune system and cause eye damage or allergic reactions.1
Some people even develop skin cancer from too much UV radiation. Were you one of those kids who shunned skin protection or overstayed your time in the sun? If so, you probably had a severe sunburn or two, putting you at greater risk for the deadliest form of skin cancer: melanoma.1
But the sun isn’t the only culprit. Tanning devices like sunlamps used in tanning beds are more dangerous than previously thought. A few years ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) looked at 19 studies conducted over 25 years. It found a link between indoor tanning and two kinds of skin cancer, as well as melanoma of the eye. The risk of skin melanoma increased by 75 percent when indoor tanning began before age 35. As a result, the agency moved these devices into the highest cancer risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.” 1
Time to take stock of that warning. That’s especially true if you have pale skin; blond, red or light brown hair, or you or a family member has had skin cancer.2 Melanoma is the second most common cancer in women in their 20s. And, one in eight with melanoma die from the disease.1
So, besides avoiding tanning salons, what can you do? Take precautions, whether you’re at the poolside or on the ski slopes. If you can, limit time in the sun when rays are strongest – between 10 am and 4 pm. Wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and long pants, when possible. Use a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Make sure it protects against all types of skin damage (called broad spectrum).
Be sure to apply sunscreen to areas of uncovered skin about 15 minutes before you go outside. And pay special attention to your nose, ears, neck, lips, and hands. Reapply, after two hours. If you have a child younger than 6 months, talk with the doctor or me before you apply sunscreen. And, check with us about any medications and cosmetics you’re using. Some make you more sensitive to UV rays. 1,2
What else? Buy sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent UV protection – even for your kids. 2 If you’re not sure whether yours offer this protection, check with your eye care professional. Remember that you can find many of these sun protection products right here, in our store.
According to a new study, risky sun exposure increases as children age. Not exactly news for those of you with teens, is it? Looking at the sun behaviors of 360 fifth graders in 2004 and again three years later, researchers found this: More than half the kids had had at least one sunburn by age 11. And, although half the kids used sunscreen at age 11, only a quarter of 14-year-olds did.(1,2)
Maybe you’re thinking, what’s the big deal, in the whole scheme of things? Or, how can I ever get my teen to use sunscreen, especially when she and her friends are competing for the “golden glow” award?
Well, I’m here to tell you it’s worth a try. Here’s why: Sunburn is a sign of skin damage from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Repeated sunburns increase your risk for skin cancer.(3) That risk is even higher in people with lots of moles and freckles, very fair skin and hair, or a family history of skin cancer.(4) One type of skin cancer (melanoma) is on the rise.5 Although once a cancer of older people, cases are now also showing up in young adults and teens. This could be due to their increased use of tanning beds and sun lamps.(5)
Too much UV exposure can also cause other types of cancer, cataracts, and a weakened immune system.(6) And it can lead to wrinkles, age spots, and leathery skin, making you age before your time.(5) (Perhaps this will get the attention of those “invulnerable” teens!)
Of course it’s not realistic – or right – to ask your kids to stay out of the sun altogether. So do you best to encourage respect for the sun, not sun worship. Buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen, blocking both UVA and UVB rays, with at least SPF 15. And encourage your teen to:
And, by the way, plenty of UV rays seep through sunscreen to help your body get enough vitamin D. So that’s not a reason to avoid sun protection.(5)
If your teen still insists on getting a tan, suggest trying sunless self-tanner, which contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Available in sprays, lotions, moisturizers, and towelettes, these products gradually stain dead cells in the skin’s outer layer. The effect can last up to a week. (5)
You can find many sun-protection products in our store. If you can’t find what you’re looking, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Nothing herein constitutes medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, or is a substitute for professional advice. You should always seek the advice of your physician or other medical professional if you have questions or concerns about a medical condition.
1. MedlinePlus: “Only 1 in 4 Young Teens Uses Sunscreen Regularly, Study Finds.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_121079.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
2. Dusza, SW et al. Pediatrics. 2012 Feb; 129(2):309–17. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22271688. Accessed March 12, 2012.
3. MedlinePlus: “Sun Exposure.” Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sunexposure.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
4. Nemours Foundation: “Sunburn.” Available at: http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/sheets/sunburn_sheet.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.
5. Nemours Foundation: “Tanning.” Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/safety/safebasics/tanning.html#. Accessed March 12, 2012.
6. EPA: “Health Effects of Overexposure to the Sun.” Available at: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvandhealth.html. Accessed March 12, 2012.