Sun damage can happen to us all

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Get fit for summer with the right sun protection

Summer is in full swing with fireworks recently lightning up the night sky this Independence Day. When it comes to protecting your skin from the summer sun, some might think that sunscreen is only for people who get sunburned easily when outdoors. Think again.

Yes, people with lighter skin tones who get sunburns or use tanning beds develop sun damage and have an increased risk of skin cancer. But, this is a big misconception about sun damage.

Over time, if we do not protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays, sun damage to our skin and eyes happens to us all.  

The truth is that every skin type and tone can benefit from sunscreen use. In addition to skin cancer prevention sunscreen prevents uneven discoloration with aging, reduces the pigmentation of melasma, minimizes rosacea redness and flares, prevents wrinkles and skin dullness, and preserves skin elasticity.

Sun protection can also prevent the development of common skin growths in people with skin of color called seborrheic keratosis, which typically erupt on sun-exposed skin in middle age. Anyone who wants to protect their skin for a lifetime should use sunscreen, regardless of their skin tone.  

While sun protection is a noble cause, there are many challenges faced by people with skin of color related to sunscreen use. First, darker skin tones may appear unnatural or disfigured when wearing zinc oxide or titanium dioixde-containing sunscreens. While they offer the best physical protection, these sunscreen ingredients can leave an unattractive white film on darker skin.

Rubbing this white layer into the skin can compromise the sunscreen’s efficacy and result in little to no protection. Numerous chemical-based sunscreen ingredients, such as avobenzone, octinoxate, and octocrylene, provide similar protection to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

The upside of these chemical sunscreens is that the disfiguring white film is not present upon application to skin. The downside is possible allergic or irritant contact reactions when they are applied to skin. This can result in itch, rashes, acne breakouts, and inflammatory skin discoloration.

Shaded sunscreens similar to shaded foundations are very popular with woman who wear makeup. However, all tinted sunscreens currently on the market are one tone and cannot be worn by most people with darker skin tones.  

Here are some steps that every person can take to help protect themselves from the sun this summer. First, if you are on the market for a sunscreen, go to stores like Ulta Beauty, Sephora, and others that allow you to test the product first to see if it will provide appropriate color match for your skin tone and the sun protection that you need.

Second, if you have chemical sensitivities, perform a use test with a new sunscreen product to determine if you will tolerate it. Apply the product daily for one week to one specific spot on your inner forearm and evaluate the area daily for any skin irritation or adverse reaction to the product. If no symptoms occur over the week test, it is most likely safe to apply to other areas.

Third, visit a dermatologist who can provide you with sunscreen options and testers of quality, physician-dispensed products and reliable over-the-counter options. At Twin Cities Dermatology Center, we are committed to fitting all skin types with the right sunscreen and offer complimentary sunscreen fittings so that you can find the right product for you.

Newer sunscreen selections are being developed to give all skin tones adequate and cosmetically pleasing sun protection. For example, Equation Skin Care has developed three shades of tinted sunscreen to accommodate darker skin tones and can be found exclusively at Twin Cities Dermatology Center.

Lastly, if you just cannot find the right product for you or are sensitive to chemicals in sunscreens, do not forget physical barriers as an option for sun protection. Hats, sunglasses, and light-colored protective clothing can provide physical barriers to shield against the sun’s harmful rays.

Seek shade when outdoors for a long period of time and practice good skin care for further skin protection. Get your skin fit for summer and for a lifetime by investing the time to find the right sun protection.