Skin Safety for the Summer Sun

by Amanda Wallace

Summertime in Florida has many wonderful perks, but none as iconic as the Florida sun; we are, after all, the Sunshine State. Floridians spend an enormous amount of time soaking up those rays, and we have the tan lines to prove it. I don’t know a single Floridian who has not, at one time or another, suffered from a classic Florida sunburn. In fact, when I was a child, it was a badge of summer victory over those long days. But since we were children, the world of sun protection and doctor recommendations has changed drastically, and we could all use a little “re-education” on sun safety.

Denise Redd, a nurse practitioner at the Sherman Walk-In Center and Skin Clinic, tells us, “Most of the general population have been well informed and are aware of the effects of sun exposure and the increased risk of various skin cancers, i.e. basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. But what many people do not know about are the noncancerous (benign) skin changes that can be caused by excessive or even minimal sun exposure.”

Dr. Pamela Kennedy, a Tallahassee-area dermatologist from Kennedy Dermatology, had similar opinions. “While patient education has rightfully focused on advising patients of increased skin cancer and precancer risks associated with UV exposure, numerous skin aging findings strongly correlate with UV exposure.”

It seems to be a well-respected medical opinion across the board that sun exposure has more risks than just skin cancer. Wrinkles, age spots (also known as solar lentigines) or even actinic purpura, which causes the skin to look bruised all the time, are all related to our exposure to the sun.

So what do we do about it? Dr. Kennedy likes the philosophy “‘Slip, slap, slop.’ Slip into sun protective clothing. Slap on a hat or a figurative hat, like an umbrella. And slop on the sunscreen.”

Sunscreen is recommended on a daily basis for all areas exposed to the sun. What’s more, Dr. Kennedy recommends mineral-based protectants such as zinc and titanium sunscreens that “actually reflect the sun’s rays” as well as being more natural and causing fewer irritations.

While treatments for sun-related skin issues have advanced in the last decade, the real goal is to avoid those damaging rays when we can by taking small steps, such as picking a park with a sunshade for your kids to play on or using clothing designed to protect against the sun, like swim shirts and hats. And don’t forget the sunscreen!