Save Your Skin Strategies

American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery offers Advice for those who’ve Soaked Up One-too-Many Rays;

Ways to Outsmart the Sun and Avoid Future Mishaps

February 25, 2002 – In the 1920′s, when traveling from Paris to Cannes, Coco Chanel inadvertently gave the fashion world another new trend – a sun tan. And soon, fashionable women everywhere wanted a bronzed glow.

Today, we know that there are consequences to basking in the sun – sagging, leathery skin, deep lines and brown spots – all of which can make a woman look years older than she really is. But that’s not the worst of it. Repeated unprotected sun exposure and sunburns can lead to skin cancer – and according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) skin cancer reconstruction procedures for women have increased at an alarming rate — by 64 percent since 1997. It is estimated that approximately 30 thousand procedures were performed on women in 2000 *. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than 1 million new cases diagnosed every year.

“This frightening rise of skin cancer incidents makes us believe that people are still not paying attention to all of the sun protection ‘rules’,” says Dr. Shan Baker, AAFPRS president. “Some people believe that sunscreen may even be the culprit, because it can create a false sense of invincibility. People either don’t reapply often or apply too little – then they mistakenly believe that they can safely stay in the sun all day.”

So, what’s your summer-sun know-how strategy? The AAFPRS offers some advice:

  • Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. The shorter UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and the development of melanoma and other skin cancers. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin causing permanent damage that leads to the wrinkled, leathery appearance.
  • The nose, one of the most prominent facial features, should never be neglected. “The nose has the highest incident rates when it comes to skin cancer, mostly due to the fact that it is often overlooked when people apply sunscreen,” says Baker. Also, don’t forget ears, hairline and scalp (skin cancers commonly turn up on unprotected areas of the scalp) so apply sunscreen to exposed areas.
  • It’s been said before, but do wear a wide-brimmed hat and don’t opt for a baseball cap. It may be fun to sport your favorite team, and baseball caps will protect the nose well, but they will leave the rest of the face exposed and vulnerable to the sun.
  • Don’t forget to protect lips, as lip cancers can be very aggressive. Use a lip balm with at least SPF 15. Many lipsticks contain titanium dioxide and other sun blocking pigments – so go ahead and flaunt your favorite shade.

But what happens when the sun has already taken a toll on skin? First and most importantly, the AAFPRS recommends having moles that have changed in color or sized checked by a doctor. To counteract the ravages of the sun and rejuvenate skin, the AAFPRS suggests the following:

  • For mild levels of sun damage, make products containing peeling agents such as retinol, glycolic acid or alpha hydroxy acids part of your skincare regimen. These are quite effective at removing dead cells and promoting the growth of healthy new cells.
  • Visit a facial plastic surgeon for routine peels. To help exfoliate skin cells and restore radiance and smoothness to skin, facial plastic surgeons can administer chemical peels or microdermabrasion (a treatment where miniscule particles of sand are directed at the skin to gently peel away its outer layer).
  • For more advanced, serious cases of sun damage, facial plastic surgeons recommend laser-resurfacing procedures, which entail use of a carbon dioxide laser (CO2). The CO2 laser is one of the most effective ways to treat wrinkles caused by excess sun exposure.
  • Add a dose of vitamin C to your face. Vitamin C lotions help to fade brown spots by suppressing the production of the skin pigment melanin. In some users, it may even boost collagen levels, helping to soften fine lines.

While many of these are treatments are effective ways to reverse the signs of aging and sun damage, they may heighten skin sensitivity, making skin more susceptible to burning. In such cases, sunscreen is essential, and if considering non-surgical cosmetic procedures (such as microdermabrasion, lasers and chemical peels), facial plastic surgeons recommend waiting until summer’s end as skin has an optimum chance to heal without being exposed to as much UVA and UVB rays.

About the AAFPRS:
The AAFPRS is the world’s largest association of facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons – with more than 2,600 members – whose cosmetic and reconstructive surgery focuses on the face, head and neck. Academy fellows are board-certified and subscribe to a code of ethics. In addition, the AAFPRS provides consumers with free information and brochures and a list of qualified facial plastic surgeons in their area by calling 1-800-332-FACE or by visiting the AAFPRS Web site, www.facial-plastic-surgery.org.

* = A survey conducted by International Communications Research (ICR) on behalf of the AAFPRS, June 2001. Projections should be used with caution – the survey respondents were based on a non-random, pre-selected basis. Based on 2,000 active AAFPRS members.