The importance of summer skin safety cannot be overstated: It's possible that sustaining just a single blistering sunburn before the age of eighteen can double your chance of developing deadly melanoma later in life.
In fact, protecting your skin from too much sunlight is critical year-round, in every season and even on cloudy days. Along with melanoma, other types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, can develop as a result of subtle sun damage accumulated across many years. At the very least, prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun's harmful UVA (long-wave ultraviolet) and UVB (short-wave ultraviolet) rays will trigger premature aging.
The question is, why don't we heed the experts' advice and cover up?
"We love the sun because it makes us feel good. And, short term, it even makes us look good," says Danielle Kalscheur, manager at True Laser Hair Removal and Skin Rejuvenation of Madison. "Especially here, where we have so many winter months. When that sun comes out people just want to enjoy it. They just don't realize that later in life it's going to show up in wrinkles, age spots and even skin cancer."
At True Laser, practitioners use a procedure called the Skin Scope to provide clients with tangible evidence of the sun damage they've already inflicted on themselves over time. During these complimentary skincare consultations, the Skin Scope uses UV light to highlight freckles, dry and oily spots, and discoloration that may not be visible to the naked eye. Strategies on preventing future damage are outlined, and the proper use of a broadband UVA/UVB sunscreen is stressed as a component of daily care—as critical to health as teeth brushing and exercise. Kalscheur urges her clients to create the sunscreen habit and then stick with it.
"You just get used to it," says Kalscheur, adding that so many clients practice good facial care but neglect delicate areas such as the neck and decollete, which becomes really evident over time. Their faces may look great but the skin of the neck and chest can present a jarring difference. True Laser also offers several corrective procedures for those who have already sustained sun damage, including microdermabrasion and customized peels.
"We offer some great skin care treatments and top-of-the-line skin care products that can help reverse and minimize sun damage and revitalize your skin's texture and appearance," says Kalscheur. "But it's just as important that you're caring for your skin at home, too."
Confusion about the correct use of sunscreen is still one of the most relevant topics Dr. Kevin Robertson of Robertson Plastic Surgery encounters when consulting with patients. Compounding this confusion is the fact that the federal Food and Drug Administration's new labeling crackdown is not yet in effect. Currently, the "sun protection factor" rating system—the SPF number found on sunscreen labels—is only a rating of UVB exposure, referring to the number of minutes you can sustain sun exposure without burning. But it's UVA radiation that causes premature aging and some forms of skin cancer, and it can penetrate windows and cloud cover.
"Unfortunately, ninety to ninety-five percent of our UV exposure is actually UVA," says Robertson. "So there's a misconception that we're getting protection when we're really only blocking maybe five percent of what's causing the damage."
Once sun damage is sustained, Robertson uses both ablative and non-ablative interventions to correct its effects. Non-ablative does not break the surface of the skin; such treatments include Intense Pulse Light therapy for blood vessels and ruddy complexions, brown spots and even hair removal. Ablative treatments break down the skin and can be especially effective for fine lines, wrinkles and crepe-like skin.
"State-of-the-art technology now combines both ablative and non-ablative in one," says Robertson, referring to his popular South Beach Peel. "This limits healing time and still provides our best treatments for color and texture irregularity."
Robertson says proper skin care is the foundation of every procedure his office provides. He typically avoids doing these procedures in the summer months, for example, because the sun can further damage delicate post-treatment skin, instead focusing on protection and preparation.
"These treatments work better when you're already on a stimulating skin care regiment with a Retin A or Vitamin C product," says Robertson. "It's kind of like training for a race. Your skin will be much likelier to heal quickly and get more benefit from it."
Not all skin care products are created equal, and our skin profiles are as individual as we are. Matching the appropriate professional-grade products with your specific needs is the best way to ensure effective skin health, particularly when it comes to combining summertime products.
"We offer sunscreens formulated to work synergistically with other products clients are prescribed for the treatment of their particular skin type and concerns," says Dr. Richard Parfitt of AestheticA Skin Health Center.
Parfitt carries the Obagi line, which includes broadband sunscreens and Vitamin C—critical, he says, to the daily regimen. These products are lightweight and absorb quickly. They also include what Parfitt calls essential to sunscreen: Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone minimizes uneven skin tone and brown spots by blocking a reaction in the cells that produces melanin. Multi-tasking formulations are ideal for those who are still averse to sunscreen, and daily moisturizers help repair and protect with ceramides and antioxidants.
"The effects of excess oil and sweat during summer can also wreak havoc on acne-prone skin," says Parfitt, recommending a cleanser with two percent salicylic acid.
Once a skincare regimen is in place, one approach to looking relaxed and rejuvenated during the summer months without having to worry about damaging sun-exposure before and after treatment is using injected treatments.
"For many people, this is the time of year they want to look their best. Healthy, youthful, relaxed and refreshed," says Parfitt. "Although there is no reason to completely avoid skin rejuvenation treatments in the summer, some treatments are more invasive, requiring more recovery time and avoidance of the sun; and, therefore, more careful planning. Injectables can be scheduled more spontaneously. Appointments are quick, there is little to no downtime, and most results are immediate."
Some people are seeking preventative and restorative skin care but eschewing chemical processes. For them, Sacred Rhythms Wellness Center offers an array of organic, chemical-free and paraben-free products and treatments.
"We try to focus on a non-invasive, natural approach that will still give you clinical results," says Simone Kunick, lead aesthetician.
Traditional chemical peels leave skin vulnerable and sensitive to sunlight, so Kunick uses a naturally formulated fruit-based enzyme peel to digest dry, dead skin cells, resurface the face and trigger cell renewal without compromising healthy skin.
"I support everyone doing what they want to do, but I also believe there are consequences to chemical-based treatments," says Kunick. "You have to stay indoors, wear a ton of sun protection and really be conscious because, if you don't, you'll further damage your skin. Then you'll need another peel and you're always sort of chasing this dragon."
Kunick says about eighty percent of her new clients are in their late thirties or early forties and are suddenly starting to see the signs of aging, so much of which is the result of ineffective sun protection. She says preventative care is key, as is a skin care regimen that encourages quicker turnover of skin cells. Sacred Rhythms carries a skin care line that is blended in-house, including a lightweight rose and hibiscus sunscreen. There's also a floral mud cleanser with French clay and essential oils, which is popular for its summertime purifying effects. The product line has grown and expanded significantly over the past year and a half, and with everything formulated in-house. Kunick believes this sets Sacred Rhythms apart from other green-focused spas.
"I think it makes it more intimate and personal," says Kunick. "An experience with us is special."
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