Warmer weather typically means more time outdoors, making it the perfect time to reassess your skincare and sun protection routine. In addition to the common sunburn, the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in the form of dryness, aging, and unfortunately, skin cancer. However, if you pay attention to your skin and make an effective skincare system routine, you can greatly minimize sun-induced damage and potentially prevent skin cancer.
Here’s what you can do to protect your body’s largest organ, the skin, and keep it safe from the sun!
Daily Home Skin Care for Skin Cancer Prevention
Over time, maintaining an at-home skin care routine can make a huge difference in the appearance and health of your skin. Certain products can even repair your skin and prevent it from future harm. Dr. Gerald Ginsburg, M.D., Medical Director at Tribeca MedSpa, shares that by following his three most recommended skin care tips to keep your skin healthy, 90% of your skincare is taken care of, simply, “Exfoliate, moisturize and wear sunblock. That’s really all you have to do.”
Following Dr. Ginsberg’s advice, our medical aestheticians recommend the following:
You’ll want a non-drying cleanser that deeply cleans your skin without leaving it dry and irritated. Summer heat puts a strain on your skin, often through excessive water loss. Using a non-drying cleanser also protects your skin from further dehydration.
A mild exfoliator with gentle cleansing and hydrating agents will thoroughly cleanse pores and promote healthy skin surface renewal without further damaging or drying skin.
A daily moisturizer that hydrates and nourishes will help replenish any dryness from sun exposure.
Apply Medical Grade Sunscreen
According to the CDC, UV rays from the sun can damage your skin after just 15 minutes of exposure. However, sunscreen (depending on the type) can scatter, reflect, or absorb sunlight before it reaches and damages your skin. Medical grade sunscreens, as opposed to off the shelf varieties, can penetrate the skin better and deliver a higher concentration of active ingredients, leading to overall better skin protection.
Dr. Ginsberg explains, “Sunscreens are actually a tricky commodity to manufacture. They have several ingredients which must work together while not diminishing the sun-blocking effect and not creating new molecules that prove to be toxic or allergenic. To ensure purity of product, safety, and effectiveness I insist on medical-grade sunscreens. They just can’t be made cheaply or carelessly.”
When selecting a sunscreen, be sure your sunscreen meets the following criteria:
- Is at least SPF 30, if not higher
- Can block both UVA and UVB rays
- Is non-comedogenic (does not clog pores)
Check Yourself for Sun Damage and Signs of Cancer
Some effects of sun damage are visible, like sunburns, sunspots, fine lines and wrinkles. Others are invisible. The danger of UV rays lies in their ability to make mutations to a skin cell’s DNA, particularly when it comes to skin cancer.
Dr. Ginsberg explains, “The sun’s rays that penetrate our skin can make minor mutations to our DNA which cause the skin cells to age prematurely. The process can even ultimately result in skin cancer. Besides the genetic damage, these rays can degrade the structural proteins the cells have been working hard to manufacture. We can lose the collagen, fibrin, and elastin that keep skin smooth. By the time your skin gets a reddish tint, all these things have been happening.”
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis, but also the most preventable cancer. When caught and treated early, skin cancers are highly curable. The best chance to see changes in your skin is by examining your skin head-to-toe every month.
And to help you assess both the seen and unseen, you can also consider an annual skin exam by a medical provider. These exams can help detect skin cancer at its earliest and most treatable stages.
Actinic Keratosis and Its Relationship to Skin Cancer
Whether performing a self-exam or seeking medical services, you may spot an Actinic keratosis (AK) – a dry, red, scaly patch on the skin. While AK can happen spontaneously, most cases are the direct result of sun damage. If you don’t treat the condition, AK can lead to a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. According to g, even though just 5-10 percent of AKs turn into skin cancer, the vast majority of squamous cell carcinomas start off as AKs.
If you do have AK, Fraxel skin resurfacing treatment can help lower the risk of it developing into skin cancer. Fraxel is an FDA-approved, non-invasive laser treatment often used for anti-aging but can also destroy pre-cancer and early skin cancers. It’s the only treatment that targets both the pre-cancerous actinic keratosis as well as the cosmetic aspects of sun damage.
Reversing Sun Damage
Although the primary concern of sun damage is the threat it poses to your health, you may want to reverse the signs of sun damage for aesthetic reasons. With so many treatment options available to help improve skin health after sun exposure, evaluating which treatment is best can be confusing. Click here to compare the options, including IPL Laser Treatment (Intense Pulsed Light), Microneedling, and Chemical Peels. Realistically, the best choice for treating sun damage depends on many variables, including the extent of the damage, skin type, how many treatments you have time for, down time, budget, and more.
In addition to medspa treatments, you can use at-home antioxidant serums to reverse the signs of sun damage. Studies have shown that adding anti-inflammatory antioxidants to your skincare regimen can protect the skin by limiting free radical production and repairing the skin from oxidative stress. Dr. Ginsberg, also notes that “Antioxidants can actually reverse the damage the UV-A and UV-B rays due to the genetic machinery of the cell and the damage to the structural proteins in the skin.”