Date: July 1st, 2003
After a long winter spent inside, many of us welcome the appearance of the sun and the return of warm weather. Unfortunately, the excitement of summer may be tempered by worries about the effects the sun has on our skin.
These concerns are legitimate, considering that the sun is responsible for more than 90 percent of all skin cancer cases. The good news is that you can get out and enjoy summer safely if you follow a few simple steps to protect your skin from the sun's damaging rays. There's even more good news. While you're protecting yourself from skin cancer, you're also putting up barriers against the premature development of wrinkles, sagging skin, and age spots, also known as liver or sun spots.
The Alliance for Aging Research recently completed a survey measuring the public's awareness and understanding of age spots - those flat, brown spots most often seen on the hands, face, and forearms. What we found was that, even though most people are familiar with age spots and what causes them, very few realize they can be treated or have made lifestyle changes to prevent their development in the first place.
An ounce of prevention…
When asked what caused age spots, the vast majority of survey respondents with age spots got it right. Seventy one percent of men and 82 percent of women blamed the sun, and more than half of both groups also cited aging. While these spots may inevitably appear on aging skin, chronic sun exposure is a major factor contributing to their development. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB. Both are related to skin cancer, and UVA is also thought to accelerate the skin changes associated with aging, including age spots.
To keep your skin looking young and healthy, you need to wear sunscreen that blocks both types of rays when outside. Keep in mind, however, that even sunscreen won’t protect you indefinitely. Your best bet is to stay in the shade and avoid being out in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Suitable clothing also offers some protection. Opt for wide-brimmed hats, tightly woven or dark clothing, or even fabrics that have sun protection factor (SPF) added. While you’re at it, don’t forget to protect your eyes with sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV radiation.
What if the damage is done?
We now know more than ever about how to keep our skin healthy and protect ourselves against skin cancer as well as the aging effects of the sun. But what about any cosmetic damage that has already been done?
Of the age spots survey respondents that indicated they already had the spots, women viewed theirs more negatively than did men, with 42 percent of female respondents agreeing with the statement, “They make me feel older than I am.”
The survey revealed that, despite their negative feelings toward age spots, people who already have skin damage may not be aware that it's possible to treat them. Nearly 90 percent of respondents with age spots had never spoken with a physician or a specialist about them. Well over half were unaware that age spots can be treated at all.
The truth is, treatments such as topical prescription products, chemical peels and laser surgery are erasing some of the damage we have already done to our skin. If the look of your skin concerns you, consult your physician or a dermatologist to find out if you’re a good candidate for treatment.
More information regarding prevention and treatment of skin cancer and the effects of aging, are included in Skin Deep: What You Need to Know To Keep Your Skin Healthy and Young, a brochure recently published by the Alliance. To order the free brochure, please call 202-293-2856.
We've gathered the top advice to help you both protect your skin and keep it young-looking so you're not afraid to bare a little during this warm season.
Top 10 ways to keep your skin looking healthy and young
- Wear a daily moisturizer with SPF 15 as well as protection from damaging ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) rays.
- Make sure your moisturizer also has antioxidants.
- Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.
- Don't smoke.
- Exfoliate once a week.
- Use a vitamin A derivative every night.
- Stay hydrated.
- Keep makeup and applicators clean.
- Minimize stress.