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Protecting Your Skin from Sun Damage in College Station, Texas

May 10, 2018

College Station, Texas, is home to thousands of Texas A&M University students and families alike. We often see patients in their late teens and 20s who believe they're too young to experience sun damage and skin cancer. Many use tanning beds and have fun in the sun without thinking of the consequences.

The truth is that people of all ages can develop sun damage and skin cancer. The best way to protect your skin is to start thinking of preventative measures. If your skin already has sun damage, there are many effective treatments available that can improve the skin's tone and texture.

How to Prevent Sun Damage

While skin cancer is the greatest concern related to overexposure to the sun, there are many other negative effects. These include premature aging, sunspots, sunburn and actinic keratosis.

Sun damage occurs over time after repeated or extended exposure to the sun. It accelerates the normal aging process and damages the elastins in our skin. The result is sagging, thickened skin that may be discolored as well. Overexposure to the sun can also increase your risk for skin cancers, including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Increased skin cancer risk is seen in people who live in sunny, warm climates. Whether you're enjoying an Aggie game or visiting Stephen C. Beachy Central Park, keep these preventative measures in mind.

Apply Sunscreen

Sunscreen helps prevent the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation, including skin aging and skin cancers. It is rated and labeled with a sun-protection factor (SPF) that measures the fraction of sunburn-producing UV rays that reach the skin. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection.

"Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow for the protective barrier to form. Reapply every one to two hours," advises Dr. Nancy Marchell, a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at  U.S. Dermatology Partners College Station. 

Sunscreens labeled "broad spectrum" offer the greatest level of protection from both UVA and UVB rays. You can also select a water-resistant product, which should be reapplied after swimming or heavy sweating. If you're visiting a public pool in College Station, Texas, be sure to opt for the water-resistant sunscreen.

For everyday use, sunscreen with an SPF of 15 is usually adequate. However, if you or your family has a history of skin cancer, burn easily or do not tan, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30+.

Avoid Tanning Beds

Tanning bed usage can be extremely harmful to the skin. In fact, those who tan indoors are six times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma in their 20s than those who have never done so.

Instead of a tanning bed, consider using self-tanning products. There are several excellent creams and gels that can be found at the local drugstore. A salon can also provide spray tans.

Limit Sun Exposure

The sun's UV light is strongest between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Obviously, you can't stay completely indoors during these hours. Instead, limit the time you spend outside and always use sunscreen.

Throwing on a hat or light clothing that covers the body is also a good way to limit exposure. Sunglasses will help protect the eyes and the surrounding skin. Seek shade if you can't avoid being outdoors for extended periods of time.

Additionally, never assume you're safe from the sun if it's cloudy or hazy outside. The sun's rays are still able to reach the ground. It's always a good idea to apply sunscreen just in case.

Correcting Sun Damage

When skin has been damaged by the sun, treatment will depend on the kind and extent of the damage. Sometimes, a deep moisturizer can help replenish the skin’s moisture after prolonged sun exposure. Sunburns can be treated with a topical aloe vera gel and cool compresses to relieve pain.

Long-term damage is permanent and, therefore, more difficult to treat. Luckily, there are many treatments available that can improve your skin's appearance.

Laser skin resurfacing vaporizes the upper layer of skin, creating a wound that encourages the body to produce new collagen. As the skin heals, it tightens, thus eliminating wrinkles.

Another popular treatment is a chemical peel, which improves the skin’s appearance by peeling off the old layer of skin. The old skin blisters and peels off, so new cells can grow, revealing smoother and less wrinkled skin underneath.

Dermaplaning and dermabrasion are other options for exfoliating dry or rough skin to trigger cell regeneration. Sun-damaged skin is replaced with new skin growth that enables better product absorption and that appears healthier and more vibrant.

Is your skin showing signs of sun damage? U.S. Dermatology Partners College Station can help. Contact us today to make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist who can help your skin look its best.

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Topics: sun safety, College Station

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