It’s that time of year again; the birds are chirping, the flowers are in bloom and the sun is at long last shining. Summer is here and all the world is venturing outside of their homes, spending time in their gardens and by the pool, soaking up the vitamin D and enjoying the weather. But as the temperature rises and the surface area of our clothing decreases, we can’t help but be more conscious of the fact that more and more of our skin is being exposed to the elements.
It’s a fact of summer that in most every store we enter from now until the end of August, we can rest assured that our senses will be assaulted by the sheer variety of sunscreens and lotions shoved onto supermarket shelves, stacked on the ends of checkout counters and laid out carefully next to the pool noodles for our general perusal. For many of us, summer is perhaps the only time that we pay any real attention to our skin. The fear of sunburn is a powerful deterrent, one that incites us into buying extra bottles or sprays that we cram into our beach bags and purses for those “just in case” moments. How do we choose? What can we do to protect our skin in the short term? Do I need to wear sunscreen even when I’m not at the beach or lounging poolside? These are all valid questions. But what we seem to forget is that if we limit our skin care regimen to the strictly seasonal, we could be depriving our body’s largest organ of the attention that it desperately needs all year round.
If you’re like me, then skin care has always been an issue. I am one of those unlucky people whose skin is sensitive to most every product on the market. Something will work for a little while and then suddenly, it’s as though my skin builds up a natural immunity to the chemicals or ingredients and I’m back to square one. I’m constantly trying new treatments and trolling the Internet for holistic and natural ideas and, when all else fails, calling my dermatologist for advice and solace.
Perhaps this isn’t you. Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones, the type that can sleep in their makeup and never worry about breakouts; the type that tans easily and rarely bothers with moisturizing and all that jazz. But chances are good that at some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced some skin issues. Acne, rosacea, inflammation, irritation; for most of us puberty is the starting point but the problem can continue well into adulthood. If you’re suffering from one or more of these, rest assured that there is help out there. All of these problems are treatable with the help of a Dermatologist and a little extra knowledge about the general rules of skincare. Just because you haven’t encountered skincare problems yet doesn’t mean that you are precluded from taking that extra step to ensure that your skin is as healthy as it can possibly be. I spoke with dermatologist Dr. April Ramsey at the Dermatology Associates of Kentucky about some of the most common and pervasive skincare problems she sees on a day-to-day basis. Dr. Ramsey had some great information regarding recognizing problems, treating and protecting your skin, as well as when it’s appropriate, even crucial that you see a dermatologist. Acne
Many would consider acne to be one of those stereotypically teenage problems that plagues us throughout our teenage years. While this may be true, Dr. Ramsey explained that acne can sometimes linger and continue to affect many of us in our post-pubescent lives. More and more so, she has seen it in the female age group ranging from 25-65. While there is a variety of factors that contribute to its appearance (often it’s just a question of hormones) the fact of the matter is that you may not simply grow out of it. While there are many over the counter treatments that many consider effective for spot treatments or occasional use, if you find the problem is persistent, a visit to a dermatologist is your best bet. Depending on the severity of the case and the factors involved, you can be proscribed both topical and oral medications that can help combat your acne and heal your skin. Rosacea
Do you love your rosy cheeks? Many of us spend a fortune in cosmetics to achieve this affect, but for others the choice isn’t always optional. Another common skincare problem affecting the 25-65 year age range is rosacea, which Dr. Ramsey explained is actually a variant of acne with both redness and acne components. The important thing for suffers in this case would be first, steer clear of products that can further irritate the skin. She suggests that you avoid products or over the counter treatments with Salicylic acid or Benzoyl peroxide, ingredients that can inflame the skin and make it more sensitive, cause burning, itching or flaking. If you have rosacea and are prone to flushing, there’s no need to panic. Even though Dr. Ramsey explained that scientists are unsure of all of the triggers behind this inflammatory process, there are a variety of factors known to enhance redness including: emotions, the consumption of alcohol and caffeine and temperature; all of them easily controllable. Being more conscious of these details can help diminish redness and achieve a more desirable cosmetic result. The Important thing is to learn to be gentle with your skin. Find balance within your skincare routine and if you continue to be unhappy with the results, seek the professional advice of a dermatologist. Sunburn
Although many skin care problems are easily addressed and generally cause only cosmetic discomfort, there are more serious issues that all of us can do our part to prevent. Remember those rows of suntan lotions lining the shelves of your local drugstore? It’s a buyers’ market but take it seriously; you could encounter a type of buyer’s remorse that’s more uncomfortable and long lasting than simply you doing your best impression of a human lobster.
According to Dr. Ramsey, many of us only apply a quarter of the recommended amount of sunscreen. Even more of us forget or fail to reapply every two hours or after we’ve gone swimming in our body of water of choice: pool, ocean, lake etc. If you have sensitive skin or want something less irritating and more effective for your kids, look for sunscreen with UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection. Always read the ingredients. Zinc oxide and Titanium dioxide are “physical blockers” to look for and good for all users. Although there is no real “maximum” SPF limit, SPF 30 should be the minimum. Because women are more apt to be generous and evenly apply their moisturizer, Dr. Ramsey suggests that you be on the lookout for a facial moisturizer that contains SPF 30 for everyday use no matter the season.
Sunburns are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sun-related skin care problems. A type of permanent skin discoloration known as “post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation” can also occur. As a fun fact (or not so fun depending on your definition) Dr. Ramsey also pointed out that they’ve seen a type of rash in people using lemon juice or lime juice on their hair to help spur on natural highlights that can leave behind a brown pigmentation of the skin. Skin Cancer
Though the above results aren’t life threatening, there is always the possibility of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. She explained that the rate of melanoma in patients under the age of thirty is growing and that the rule of thumb to apply when attempting to decide whether it’s pertinent to see a dermatologist is that if anything is NEW, CHANGING or GROWING, then it’s time to book an appointment. If you need a helpful acronym to remember when you’re doing your own self-assessment just follow the ABCD’s of melanoma detection used by the American Melanoma Foundation:
A – Asymmetry (one half is different than the other half)
B – Border irregularity (edges are notched, uneven or blurred)
C – Color (color is uneven)
D – Diameter (diameter is greater than 6 millimeters)
While all of this information may seem overwhelming and you may be thinking it’s a safer course of action to just hit the tanning bed from time to time and wear a really big hat at the beach, be aware that tanning beds give off UV light in more concentrated doses. Ergo a quick baking session is probably not just what the doctor ordered. Remember: you are not a Christmas turkey.
Fun in the sun is a summertime right of passage. Just make sure that when the sun goes down you’re not sitting on your bed, slathering on aloe wondering if it’s possible to fry an egg on your skin. Enjoy the weather and be safe.