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The Darker side of the sun

Article-The Darker side of the sun

It's a paradox — we like the look of a healthy tan, but it comes with a hefty price tag — and not just an increased risk of skin cancers. "Photoaging" is the medical term for how our skin reacts to sunlight, and it's not pretty.

According to Monique Cohn, D.O., a board- certified dermatologist in private practice, and president of Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Center, Twinsburg, Ohio, "Signs of photoaging include wrinkling of the skin, discoloration — including both light and dark areas — loss of elasticity, and increased overall redness of the skin." Fortunately, there are steps you can take to counteract the effects of too much sun exposure, Dr. Cohn says.


"Topical vitamin A creams enhance collagen production, thereby reducing fine lines," she explains. "Hydroquinone, a type of bleaching cream, can help fade dark spots. Glycolic, salicylic, and trichloroacetic acid peels — as well as microdermabrasion treatments — exfoliate the superficial layer of the skin to even out skin tone and minimize fine lines. Kinerase is a line of facial products that contain Kinetin, which helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles and even out skin tone. Prevage contains idebenone, an antioxidant that prevents and repairs daily damage caused by the sun. Glytone, Glyderm and MD Forté are just a few of the many products that contain glycolic acid, a fruit acid that exfoliates and freshens the appearance of sun-damaged skin."


Various laser and light treatments are also available to treat photoaging. Dr. Cohn notes that these range from intense-pulsed light devices that treat superficial skin tone irregularities to carbon dioxide (CO2) laser resurfacing, a treatment that removes deeper lines, post-acne pitted scars and leaves skin looking more smooth and even.


While many different treatments are effective for photoaging, prevention is the still the best medicine. "Daily sunscreen application is the best way to prevent photoaging," Dr. Cohn stresses. "Antioxidants like Prevage and Kinerase can also repair daily damage from the sun before damage is done at the cellular level. Look for sunscreens that are at least SPF 30 and provide UVA and UVB protection. Sunscreen should be applied every four hours when outdoors or every two hours when swimming or sweating."

While sunscreens with SPF less than 30 may not always provide adequate UV protection, proper application is critical whatever the sunscreen's SPF value. Always reapply after sweating or swimming.

All sunscreens are NOT created equal, so be a savvy shopper. "Some good ingredients to look for in sunscreens include titanium dioxide, zinc, mexoryl and avobenzone."

Sunscreens should fit the type of skin on which they're being used. For people with oily or acne-prone skin, Dr. Cohn says, it would be best to use a gel-based non-comedogenic product. For dry or sensitive facial skin, a lotion or cream-based sunscreen would be better.

Also, she says, "Many over-the-counter and department store products that claim to undo signs of photoaging do not have reliable clinical studies to back up their claims. Make sure to do your research before investing in an expensive skincare product."

Don't look to tanning booths as a safe sun alternative, either, Dr. Cohn advises. "Even occasional use of tanning beds is one of the worst things someone can do to increase photoaging. The damaging UV rays emitted by these beds are many times stronger than those from the sun, leading to premature aging of the skin and a significantly increased risk of developing skin cancer."

The bottom line, Dr. Cohn says, is that, "Any tan is evidence of skin damage. The only way to safely tan is to use self-tanning lotions, creams and sprays. These can produce a realistic tan appearance and do not increase one's incidence of skin cancer or photoaging."

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