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North Hills Monthly

Expert Tips to Keep Skin Safe This Summer

Jun 30, 2018 11:48AM ● By Trina Asterino-Nous

Warm summer sunshine and clear blue skies are cause for celebration after a dreary winter. Before sun worshippers overdo a good thing, however, skin care experts have some helpful tips to keep skin healthy this summer.

Deborah Patterson, MMS, PA-C, of Brad Amos Dermatology in Cranberry Township, has been a physician assistant for 27 years; she spent the last 18 of them working in dermatology. Patterson said a few key practices make the biggest impact on skin safety.

While most people recognize that sunscreen is the best defense, they often fail to use sunscreen properly and consequently miss its benefits,” she explained. “Sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours throughout the day, and people should use one ounce—equal to a shot glass—of lotion with each application.”

Patterson said sunscreen should have an SPF of 30 or higher, but even more important is using a product with broad spectrum protection. “Always read the label to make sure the sunscreen has both UVA and UVB protection,” she added.

For many people, especially parents with young children who are in and out of the water throughout the day, reapplying sunscreen every two house can seem unrealistic. In those situations, Patterson recommends protective clothing such as swim or rash guard shirts. “Every inch of skin that is covered is that much less sunscreen you have to worry about,” she explained.

Patterson said the popular myth that a base tan protects individuals from skin damage has little merit. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that a base tan gives sunbathers protection equivalent to using sunscreen with an SPF of four. In addition, Patterson explained, “If you have a tan, that means you have skin damage and are at risk for premature aging and skin cancer.” 

Another common misperception is that people should avoid sunscreen because the body requires vitamin D. Patterson said JAMA researchers have shown that a reasonable diet including leafy greens, combined with incidental sunshine—such as what the average person experiences during the day while being outside to walk into work, get the mail or drive a car—provides all the vitamin D humans need. 

While people with acne might tend to avoid sunscreen for fear of exacerbating skin problems, Mary Bickley, a licensed esthetician and owner of Clearskin Acne Solutions in Cranberry Township, said wearing sunscreen is especially important for people with acne.

“Many acne products and treatments actually make your skin more sensitive to sun,” Bickley explained. People with acne should select products without pore-clogging ingredients, and Bickley said brands such as SolRx, Face Reality and Vivant offer sunscreen that will not clog pores.

Protecting skin from excessive exposure to the sun keeps skin healthy, but is not the only step people should take to care for their skin. Increasing water intake, stopping smoking and decreasing alcohol intake all contribute to healthier skin, Patterson said. She recommended 64 ounces (about eight glasses) of water per day as a healthy hydration goal to keep skin looking its best.

For those concerned with minimizing wrinkles to keep their skin young, Patterson said daily sunscreen and daily application of a retinoid have the most significant long-term impact. 

Individuals with issues such as acne or eczema may struggle even more during the summer months. Patterson explained that although sun exposure helps clear up acne because sun kills acne-causing bacteria, benzoyl peroxide is a better alternative. The medication kills bacteria without subjecting skin to harmful UVA and UVB rays.

For individuals with eczema, Patterson said, taking a brief shower after a trip to the pool can be helpful to remove irritants such as chlorine from the skin. She recommended a mineral-based, fragrance-free sunscreen such as Vanicream for people with eczema.

Bickley said chemicals present in swimming pools can exacerbate acne up to three months after exposure. One technique she uses with clients seeking acne treatment is to apply a thin layer of Vaseline before putting on a layer of mineral-based, water-resistant sunscreen. Bickley explained that the Vaseline can protect pores from pool chemicals, while still allowing the sunscreen to do its job.

By all means, people should head outside and enjoy the beautiful summer weather. Wise sun revelers, however, will heed the experts’ advice to slather on the sunscreen, seek out the shade and drink plenty of water this summer to keep skin looking and feeling healthy.

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