Protection: Priceless

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Warns to Think Twice Before Heading Out Into the Sun
March 15, 2001 — Studies show that all of those summers of soaking-up hours of the sun’s warm, glorious rays have been catching up to us — not only in the form of wrinkles and brown spots, but worse, skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) skin cancer reconstruction is one of the most common facial reconstructive procedures for both men and women. In fact, according to their recent survey, skin cancer reconstruction procedures among women have increased at an alarming rate — by nearly 65 percent since 1997*.

“What this indicates, is that despite all of the dissemination of information, many people are still ignoring the warnings and continue to increase their risk of skin cancer by not taking adequate precautions,” says AAFPRS President Dr. Russell Kridel. “Long range UVA rays have been proven to cause photoaging and are directly linked to skin cancers. So preventing skin cancer and maintaining a healthy appearance means avoiding undue exposure to UV radiation.”

Facial plastic surgeons, as a specialty group, strongly advise their patients to avoid sun exposure of any significant duration without the use of proper sun protection. ( AAFPRS surgeons recommend applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 25 — 90 minutes before heading outdoors and reapplying throughout the day, especially after swimming or exercising.) According to the AAFPRS, minimizing sun exposure is the best way to avoid surgical procedures, which can sometimes be disfiguring or produce significant scarring, but are often a necessary means for eliminating some skin cancer malignancies.

There are approximately 900,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. every year; one out of 70 people will develop melanoma. Protection is key, and the AAFPRS recommends the following:

  • Stock up on new bottles of sunscreen at the beginning of the beach season as products can lose their effectiveness over time. Store sunscreen in your cooler when you’re lounging at the beach or pool — heat will cause its chemicals to break down and become less potent.
  • Lay it on thick! Apply sunscreen liberally, and don’t rub it in — a film of sunscreen on the surface of your skin provides the best protection. Each application of sunscreen should be enough to fill a shot glass. Applied too thinly, SPF 15 acts more like SPF 7. (Also, don’t neglect applying sunscreen to lips, ears, eyelids and even feet — those are horrible places to get burned!)
  • In addition to sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses should be a part of your regular outdoor gear. Up to 80 percent of skin cancers occur on the head and neck, so a wide brimmed hat should be worn to shade the face, ears, scalp and neck from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Apply sunscreen under your makeup or moisturizer. However, products with zinc oxide or titanium oxide (chemicals that reflect UVA rays) should be applied last.
  • Newsflash: sunscreens don’t offer full protection and aren’t an excuse for extending time in the sun. Also, don’t look to a T-shirt for protection — it only offers somewhere between 8 and 12 SPF and a wet T-shirt offers even less protection.
  • If exposure to the sun has left its mark (leathery skin texture, freckles, uneven pigmentation or age spots), a visit to a facial plastic surgeon may be necessary. Procedures such as alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid peels, salicylic acid peels and microdermabrasion are effective ways for treating mild sun damage and rejuvenating the skin.

“While many desire the look of a bronzed body, there’s nothing fashionable about skin cancer. Sunburns and suntans, are actually signs that your skin has been damaged. However, if a sun-kissed look is what you want, do it safely with a self-tanner or a bronzing powder,” adds Kridel.