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That tan might look good when you’re young, but over time, the consequences are less than attractive—not only skin cancer, but wrinkles, brown spots and broken blood vessels, all telltale signs of sun damage.
What can you do to avoid them? The bottom line is year-round protection, even when it’s cloudy or you’re on vacation in the mountains where the air is thinner, says Christy Riddle, M.D., a dermatologist on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano.
And if you think you’re safe if you rarely venture outside, you’re still vulnerable when you’re driving, especially your hands. UVA rays penetrate most car windshields. If the tops of your hands are beginning to look older than the rest of your body, that might be the reason, Dr. Riddle explains, so be sure to apply sunscreen there, too.
Buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVB (burning rays) and UVA (aging rays) and includes zinc oxide or Parsol 1789 (also called avobenzone). Many new sunscreens have micronized zinc oxide, which makes it easier for the skin to absorb. In addition, some new sunscreens have mexoryl, which targets UVA rays. Use a product with SPF of 30 or higher and apply it liberally.
“Most people only use 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount, so even if they use SPF 30, what they are getting is closer to SPF 15,” Dr. Riddle says. How much is enough? One ounce, should be enough to cover the exposed areas of the body, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Many women use a face cream with added sunscreen. While that’s a good idea, Dr. Riddle advises that you “don’t depend on makeup for adequate coverage; instead think of it as a nice addition.” Every sunburn can be harmful, but it’s the lifetime of sun exposure that concerns doctors. “I have many patients in their 60s who haven’t ‘laid out’ in the sun in 30 years and now they have skin cancer,” Dr. Riddle says. A little precaution goes a long way.
For a referral to a dermatologist on the Baylor Plano medical staff, call 1.800.4BAYLOR or visit BaylorHealth.com/Plano.
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