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Sun safety

From the doctors and staff at Gwinnett Dermatology, we hope you are having a wonderful summer! We also want to make sure that you are knowledgeable about how to protect yourself from skin cancer and other harmful effects of the sun.

Dr. Jessica Mercer

The sun sends rays of light to the earth, and when it comes to skin, the most notable of these rays are ultraviolet, UVA and UVB.

-UVA rays penetrate deepest into the skin.  Because the layer of skin burned by UVA is below the surface, redness and peeling is not always seen, but damage is still occurring.  UVA rays cause skin aging, wrinkling, and may contribute to skin cancer, such as melanoma.

-UVB rays affect the more superficial layer of skin, and are the major cause of sunburn.  These damaging rays are also a significant cause of skin cancer including basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma.

To protect from harmful UVA and UVB rays, below are a few recommendations:

-Seek shade when the sun is brightest, between 10 am and 4 pm.  Enjoy outdoor activities before or after this time, or find shade under trees, tents, umbrellas, etc.

-Wear sun protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat.  Darker, heavier fabrics often provide more protection.  Also, there are specialty brands that produce protective gear specifically for sun. 

-Use sunscreen daily, SPF 30 or above, broad-spectrum (blocks UVA and UVB), and if needed, water-resistant.  Apply generously, and repeat every 2 hours when outdoors or immediately after water exposure.  For sensitive skin, use products with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, known as physical blockers.

Lastly, we would like to dispel a few common misconceptions about sun exposure.

Myth: Sunscreen is not needed on cloudy or cool days.

Truth: UV rays travel through clouds and can still cause sunburn even on overcast days.

Myth: Sun damage only comes from spending a lot of time outside at the beach, park, or other recreational places.

Truth: A great deal of sun damage occurs from incidental exposure during day-to-day activities such as driving to work or school, walking the dog, etc.  Therefore, daily sunscreen use to exposed face and body is advised.

Myth: Tanning beds are not as dangerous as natural sunlight.

Truth: Tanning beds emit UVA, which causes skin aging and skin cancer.  Studies have shown a 59% increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in users of tanning beds.

Myth: Those with darker skin types or who tan easily are not at risk of harmful sun effects.

Truth: While melanin, which produces pigment, provides some protection in darker skin types, risks of skin cancer and skin aging (wrinkling and discolorations) are still present.  Therefore, sunscreen is recommended for all skin types.

Myth: Wearing sunscreen will result in low vitamin D levels.

Truth: Incidental sun exposure, even with sunscreen, is enough to provide vitamin D.  If levels are low, sun is an unsafe and unreliable way to increase.  Low vitamin D should be managed by a doctor with vitamin supplementation and blood testing.

We hope that these tips will allow you to continue a “sun-safe” summer!  Should you have skin concerns, however, please schedule an appointment with one of our providers at Gwinnett Dermatology.

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