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Amman’s Dr. Freeda Tannous gives us an expert look about our summer skin. We delve into everything from how to pick your sunblock to just how bad tanning is for your health.
Sun’s out and it’s heating up; just before you grab your bikini and run to the nearest pool, read about how your rendezvous with the midday sun can give you more than bronze skin. U: Summer is here, and the sun will be stronger than ever. What does this mean for our skin? FT: Well… to start, not only does the sun cause premature aging and wrinkles, but it also causes pigmentation like melasma, freckles and solar lentigines. Most importantly & and the most dangerous thing about the sun & is that it is the major cause of skin cancer. A lot of people know this, but for some reason, they just don’t take it seriously. A new study done by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) found that even indoor lighting could cause skin cancer. "ey found that the damage caused by UV Rays accumulates year a$er year until it gets to the point where the damage is irreversible and leads to the production of cancerous cells. So, sunblock is a must indoors and outdoors all throughout the year. U: When it comes to skin pigmentation, what a$ects it and is it treatable? FT: Few medications such as oral contraceptives and mood-balancing neurological pills increase the risk of skin pigmentation. Pregnant women are also at a higher risk of getting skin pigmentation because of their hormone levels. Studies also show that any pregnant woman not using sunblock has a 53% chance of getting pigmentation; this percentage drops to 8% when she wears sunblock on a regular basis. Pigmentation is very treatable, but the sooner you treat it, the better & and the better the results of the treatment will be. We can treat them with topicals, injectables, lasers and a new chemical treatment called Melanostop that is working wonders. U: How can we !ght skin cancer? FT: I constantly tell young women and men alike to stop tanning! "ey are luckily at the stage where the sun’s damage is reversible. Many people think wearing sunblock and tanning is !ne but it is not at all. As soon as your skin gets a hint of color it means the damage has been done. "ere is no such thing as a safe real tan. I encourage and insist on people to always wear sunblock and avoid being out in the sun at peak hours, which are from 11 am to 3 pm, that is when UV rays are extremely concentrated and the sun is at a high angle above the earth’s surface. "ey must also wear hats to shield their face from harmful rays. "ere are new hats now that actually !lter out UV rays. You should know that even when you’re under water you can still get damage from the sun & it is less severe because of refraction, but still you must protect against it. When you’re skiing, you actually get double the damage because the snow re#ects the rays, which means you’re catching rays from the sun and snow. U: What else do you advise we do? FT: I personally am trying to remove this notion of “bronze is beautiful”. People should feel con!dent in their own skin, literally. Why do we always feel that to be desired and to be beautiful, we must be tanned? We are perfect the way we are. "ere’s no need to change our color. Some people get !rst-degree, or even second-degree burns from the sun. When your face or body is red, it is actually considered a burn. If someone is so desperate for a tan, they can easily get a faux spray tan or use self-tanning creams, which is much better than a real tan. It is uniform and gives you a uni!ed tone; you also get the color you want without damaging your skin. U: What about tanning beds? FT: "ey are the absolute worst! "ey harness and deliver concentrated UV rays to the skin. "e damage done by them is even worse than the damage done by the sun, and they are actually banned in all developed countries. U: Can you tell us more about skin cancer? Who is more prone to it and why? FT: Skin cancer is a very serious disease but it is also a preventable one. We can take precautions to avoid it. In the past few years, the incidents of skin cancer have increased 25 folds because of tanning. "is statistic is completely unacceptable in this day and age with all the knowledge we have, so the AAD took action and came out with a campaign to reinforce the importance of protecting our skin from the sun. People with fairer skin tones are more susceptible to skin cancer because they have a lower number and lower density of pigment-forming cells (melanocytes) that protect against sun damage. There are three types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Malignant Melanoma (MM). BCC is treatable and doesn’t spread as fast and isn’t as serious as the other two types of cancer. The most dangerous form is MM, which can be fatal in a matter of months. People have to always examine themselves. Do it at least once a year, on your birthday make it a gi$ to yourself to check if there are any pigmented lesions or moles and monitor their growth and size. Examine existing beauty marks and if they are ulcerated or bleeding, go to a dermatologist and have them looked at. "is is especially important to do when you’re over 30. U: Is the damage always cumulative or can it happen #om just a single time? FT: It can happen from just one tanning session. "e damage can be as strong from a single time. In some cases, it can be greater than the damage caused if you are out in the sun every day for a short period of time. So if you lay out for four hours in one day, it is actually worse than laying out for ten minutes over the course of a month. U: Which sunblock shall we use? FT: "ere are three types of ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. UVC rays are short and don’t reach us except in Australia because of the hole in the ozone & Australia actually has the highest skin cancer rates because of this. UVA rays are the most harmful and they cause cancer, while UVB rays are the ones responsible for sunburns. "e sunblock we buy must have an SPF of 50+, anything less isn’t giving you full protection, and anything more will give you the same results. 30 gives you 92% protection, 50 gives you 98%. Look for a broad-spectrum block that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. "e number 50 signi!es the level of protection against UVB only, so we have to buy a medical block that is broad-spectrum with the + sign signifying it o'ers full protection. Water-resistant lotions are the best because they won’t wash away when you take a dip. U: Any other tips on using sunblock? FT: You must know that no matter how good the sunblock is, it won’t protect you for more than three hours, so you have to keep reapplying, and apply it generously all over & don’t neglect your ears, hands and feet, and apply it under your swimwear straps in case they move and slip. Apply it 30 minutes before you go out because it is a chemical protection so it needs time to work. You should also remember not to neglect your lips. Always choose a lip balm with an SPF. U: So in conclusion, it is best not to tan at all. FT: Please don’t. For your own sake. It is so harmful and the negative e'ects outweigh the momentary “glow” you get. Always wear your sunblock and always put your health before anything else.