Guess what, my friends? It’s SUMMER! Okay, not officially until June 20th, but since it lasts until September 22nd, we are going to be living in a crazy summer world like no other in our recent history! Vacations have been cancelled, restrictions have wreaked havoc on our normal summer activities, but some things haven’t changed. Like the sun! And, the heat. We all know Maryland is a little crazy with drastic weather changes in a short amount of time so let’s get prepared! 

Today, we are talking about skin safety. I won’t deny the fact that I am a true sun lover and guilty-as-charged, a sun “baker”. I remember the days of baby oil and “Sun-In” (some of you are laughing with me right now over our orange hair days), and although my skin tans like the color of my favorite Coppertone bottle, I regret a lot. Don’t be me! I’m hoping to reach some of our younger generation who still think it’s all fun-and-games to catch a good skin tan. If you are saying “that’s me!”, you can still do this, but let’s be safe about it so you won’t regret it later.

Last weekend, my dear friend and I took her kayaks out on the water. Granted, it was in between storms and the typical Maryland weather moods, but I opted to just go out not even thinking about sunblock. Afterall, it was cloudy! Well, it was yet another beginning of summer lesson learned, of course, the hard way for me. As I drenched my face in anti-aging lotion that evening, I wanted to kick myself for not thinking about the yearly regret of sun damage. I have good genes, but still…they aren’t always enough. We are in a world of progressive skin care products and yet, we still think we’re exempt from the effects of UV (ultraviolet) rays because some magical skin care line will reverse the damage. Folks, it’s not all that true. Okay, don’t yell at me yet, I have friends that sell various products, and I’m merely just saying: prevent what you can so you don’t have to spend a fortune on something that will not give you the same results as being cautious and preventative right from the start!

I’d like to dive into the effects of skin “aging” instead of skin cancer, because we really do hear so much more about the really, really bad stuff. But, the stuff before the bad stuff is bad too! Excuse my elementary wording there! I did a little research outside of the US to find out how other countries are handling the effects of UV rays, just to compare how to tackle the dilemma so many of us ‘sun-bakers’ want to ignore. Here’s what I found:

There was a great article titled Photoaging: The Link Between Skin Spots, Wrinkles and Sun Exposure. (As always, links for your reference will be posted at the bottom of this article.) Researchers at the Kansai Medical University in Osake, Japan concluded when you expose your skin to the sun, the DNA in your skin cells absorb UV radiation (yes, we already know this!) causing “structural” changes to our genetic process. This can cause genetic mutation if our skin cells are unable to repair the damage. UV rays are damaging to the collagen and elastin in our skin and those are very important proteins that keep skin strong and elastic! I’m pretty sure we all understand this. If you get too much sun, or even just a little bit of it without proper safety precautions, you’re basically destroying skin cells. I know my grandmother, at 97, had absolutely beautiful skin until the day she died. She was also very diligent about taking care of her skin with daily SPF and her “grease” every night. Are we doing this? We are even more susceptible to UV damage today than ever before. What other precautionary measures should we be taking? 

Protecting your skin from damage can be as simple as throwing on a super cute, sporty hat or visor. Or, for those of you (like me) who prefer the glamour, sun hats are big and colorful and fun! In most swimsuit retail shops, there will be a set of flops to match the Preakness style hat and correspond with your new suit! Men – you’re not exempt from this. You too, can throw on a great baseball cap or a good looking cowboy hat to cover those receding hairlines! You’re not immune to skin damage (or wrinkles)! Most beach locations offer umbrellas or some form of covering. Even in those beautiful remote, outside of the US locations (if you can snag a ticket to travel nowadays!) offer cabanas and huts to rescue their patrons from the hot summer sun. 

I don’t want to go into product discussions, as everyone has their go-to, and we’re not an advertising agency so just talk to your doctor about what’s the best plan to protect your skin. If you have those questionable moles or skin spots, maybe even just oddly-changing colored freckles that you’re noticing a little more, this is the kind of thing we do! Your FPCA doctor can assess anything you feel might be changing and causing concern, and some of this can be done virtually too! Things to look at: 

  • A new, expanding, or changing growth, spot, or bump on the skin
  • A sore that bleeds and/or doesn’t heal after several weeks
  • A rough or scaly red patch, which might crust or bleed
  • A wart-like growth
  • A mole (or other spot on the skin) that’s new or changing in size, shape, or color
  • A mole with an odd shape, irregular borders, or areas of different colors

Be diligent about checking your skin, not just during summer but all the time. If you have one of those pesky spots you might feel concerned about, contact us! If it’s out of your PCP’s realm of comfort, he/she will refer you to one of our amazing local dermatologists that will take the lead and that is just one of many things we do here! The trust and confidence we share with our local physicians, in all specialties, is how your primary care team focuses on YOUR best care! 

Enjoy the summer! Share your summer photos, whatever you and your family/friends are doing to enjoy it, with us on Facebook and as always, take care! We’re here when you need us.

~Shannon Hadeed

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