As probably the only Scottsdale Cosmetic Surgeon in the crowd at the Phoenix Fall Frenzie, I thought about the 110 degree heat and clear skies, and wondered how many people were wearing sunscreen and how many wished they were. Here in the Valley of the Sun, most residents are at least savvy enough to own and use sunscreen when they plan on spending more than a few minutes out on a sunny day.
But, how much do most of us really know about sunscreen? We usually go to the market and remember to pick up some sunscreen when we see a nice display or a sale on a product. The problem is: not all sunscreen is created equal.
The harmful rays of the sun are broken down into two types...those that burn are called Ultraviolet B (UVB) and those that cause disease and premature aging are Ultraviolet A (UVA). The problem is that many sunscreens say they offer "total protection" or they can "protect all day long" but they may not be sufficient. If you want to avoid both a sunburn and future skin problems, you need to make sure your sunscreen has both UVA and UVB protection.
The other factor is how long the sunscreen will work before you need to reapply. As a general rule, no matter what type you wear, you should reapply every two hours or more frequently if you are out under direct sun exposure. More frequently if you are going in water or sweating.
For additional protection consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and a shirt.
Once the sun has done some damage, premature aging, brown spots and fine wrinkles can be a concern for some people. In most cases, laser skin treatment with a CO2 laser or chemical peel can be performed to reverse some or most of the damage. This should only be performed in the hands of an expert after a complete examination and consultation. As always, the best medicine is prevention.
Shop wisely and protect your skin. The sun is the major cause of premature aging AND skin cancers. Both can be prevented by remembering these important measures. Have fun and be safe!