Anti-Aging Advice by Dr. Jennifer T. Haley
What’s the best way to care for skin during the summer months? Top-rated dermatologist Dr. Jennifer Haley answers your top summer skincare questions!
1) Does sun exposure cause aging?
We are led to believe that freckles are adorable in children, but freckles are really the first sign of sun damage. In adults, they are considered “age spots” but really have nothing to do with age, only the amount of time the skin has been exposed to sun. It’s a fact that sunlight is a major culprit of wrinkles, dryness, and age spots with more than 90% of skin aging effects being caused solely by the sun. Skin health is a representation of our inner health. Spending all those hours in the gym isn’t going to pay off if you don’t have gorgeous, glowing, even-toned skin to cover those toned muscles.
2) When should I see a doctor?
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. The evidence is overwhelming that sun exposure increases the risk of developing skin cancer. While Basal Cell Cancer is most prevalent and has a higher chance of disfiguring you rather than shortening your life, melanoma may be deadly. If you have a new or changing mole, a “pimple” that won’t go away after a month or two, or something on your body that looks unlike any other spot, go see a Board-Certified Dermatologist immediately. Early detection and treatment is the key to a cure, schedule an appointment for an end-of-summer exam today!
3) What should I look for in a sunscreen?
Sun Protection Factor (SPF) indicates how long it will take for the UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without the product. For instance, someone using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without sunscreen. Higher SPF products do not give proportionate protection, and, an SPF 30 product applied properly will block about as much UVB as any higher SPF product. Consider the following UVB screening statistics:
- SPF 15 screening 93% of UVB rays
- SPF 30 screening 97% of UVB rays
- SPF 50 screening 98% of UVB rays
While SPF rating indicates how well a product will protect the skin from UVB, there is no current rating system for UVA protection. There are currently 17 active ingredients approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens. Some provide a physical barrier, using minerals, while others provide a chemical barrier that works by absorbing ultraviolet rays (UVR). Most are chemical sunscreens, which work by absorbing the UVR before it penetrates the skin. The longer you are in the sun, the more quickly these chemicals break down, becoming ineffective.
The physical sunscreens - zinc oxide and titanium dioxide - are insoluble particles that effectively reflect both UVA and UVB away from the skin. The effectiveness of these products relies solely on how thickly they are applied. When applied properly, they are excellent at blocking the entire spectrum of both UVA and UVB rays.
I recommend Derivation’s Broad Spectrum Sun Protection Lotion ($45).
4) Do I need sunscreen if I am inside?
Since most sun damage occurs during the cumulative effect of UV exposure during daily activities, apply a physical sunscreen daily first thing every morning. Treat your neck, chest, and the back of your hands daily with your face and always apply makeup over, not under, sunscreen. Since we know that UVA penetrates through windows, sunscreen is mandatory even if you work indoors.
5) Can the foods I eat help protect my skin?
The good news is that many of the healthy nutritional choices you make for your body will also benefit your skin. Consuming antioxidants found in acai berries, blueberries, goji berries, pomegranate, turmeric, tomatoes, carrots, and green tea can internally protect skin from UV damage and give you a natural rosy glow.
Lycopene, the red pigment found in some fruits and vegetables, soaks up free radicals preventing DNA damage, and has been proven to increase the skin’s natural SPF by one-third. Foods high in lycopene include watermelon, tomatoes, papaya, pink guava, red bell peppers, and pink grapefruit.
Spinach, swiss chard, and kale contain lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients scavenge and destroy free radicals, which have been shown to reduce the risk of developing skin cancers.
Like any nutrition or exercise plan, it is your commitment to the little daily rituals that will make a huge difference over time. Avoid tanning salons to keep skin dewy, glowing, and unblemished. Avoid processed foods and sugars, as these will make your skin dehydrated and sallow. Hydrate, enjoy healthy fats, and choose a rainbow of colorful foods to brighten your complexion and protect your skin internally.
I'll be back next week to answer more of your questions.
Dr. Jennifer T. Haley, MD