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Look Better Naked: Why it is vital to use a good sunscreen

Editor’s note: Darren A. Farnesi, MD, APC, joins SDGLN as a contributor. In his monthly column called “Look Better Naked,” he will give readers up-to-date advice about how to look their best.

Want to look better naked? Tell me about it! Who doesn’t?

There are so many aspects to looking great with your clothes off: Exercise, eat right, decrease stress, take care of your skin, optimizing your hormones ... you’ve heard most of these ad nauseam.

One of the most important things to keep in mind if you want to look better is prevention. As in preventing sun damage. The hot summer sun is FINALLY here! Goodbye to May Gray, June Gloom, July “Sun-Shy” and the Foggiest August in memory! So this seems like a good time to address sunscreen use.

All you guys out there want to sport a nice tan with your bulging biceps and 6-packs, but do you really want to be a leatherneck in your 50s? And how about the ladies wearing low-cut anything to show the cleavage? Do you really want laser resurfacing every few years on your upper chest to take away the wrinkled skin and all the sun spots?

Have you seen people with that permanent reddish-brown “tanned” look, even if they haven’t been in the sun in a year? That’s from something called poikiloderma, which results from long-term sun-damage thinning the skin. This allows the capillaries underneath to show through, combined with permanent pigmentary changes from the sun – and voila! You have the “perma-red,” which is not so pretty.

Rejuvenating procedures can be effective. But prevention is much cheaper and MUCH more effective. And let’s not forget about skin cancer. The incidence of melanoma is still on the rise and there’s nothing like a big cancer scare to ruin a fun summer of splashing in the sun.

While everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer after exposure to UV light, some are at a higher risk than others, including:

• People with exposure during their childhood and teen years.

• People who burn easily, have freckles or a lot of moles.

• People with a personal or family history of melanoma.

• People with atypical moles or a large number of moles.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), everyone who spends time outdoors should take sun safety seriously. Here are some tips consider:

• Seek shade, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are strongest and can do the most damage.

• Wear clothing to cover up and protect exposed skin.

• Wear a hat with a wide brim to help protect the face, head, ears and neck. That is the only thing that’s going to prevent the “leatherneck” and “dehydrated ears” look when you get older.

• Use sunglasses that wrap around the eyes - to the sides and above and below, and which block nearly 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. The more they wrap, the fewer crows feet you will have.

• Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 30 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.

Most sunscreen SPF ratings are done with application of the cream twice as thick as most people put it on. So go for at least SPF 30 and you’ll be lucky to be getting SPF 15 by the time you rub it in all the way.

Don’t forget that SFP ratings assume you will re-apply every two hours and every hour if you are in the water or sweating.

The broadest UVA protection is offered by zinc oxide. And NO, this is NOT the zinc oxide your dad used to wear on his nose making it white when you all went to the beach as kids. Today’s zinc oxide, in the right product, is micronized or ultra-micronized, such that it rubs in and you don’t see it at all.

The next best UVA protection is Titanium Dioxide, followed by Mexoryl (Ecamsule) – which is a chemical UVA blocker.

• And don’t forget to check your moles and sun spots regularly for any signs of cancer. The American Cancer Society has shown the greatest survival occurs in those who do regular skin checks, with photographs of significant moles and spots, used to track change over time.

Remember your ABCD’s:

A = Asymmetry – if you divide the spot or mole in half – is it the same on both sides? If not, get it checked.

B = Border – should be sharp and regular, not irregular, blurry, or “leaking” into the surrounding skin. If it is, get it checked.

C = Color – watch for distinct color changes and multiple colors within the same spot. Red, white, or blue coloration are usually a bad sign.

D = Diameter – if it’s greater than the size of a standard pencil eraser, it should be checked.

So next time you have the urge to take your clothes off in the sun – think again! If you want to look better naked all the time, don’t be naked in the sun. And wear your sunscreen!

Darren A. Farnesi, M.D., APC, offers his sound advice and personal knowledge of the industry as a successful doctor with Medical Age Management Inc. He can be reached at (619) 299-0700 or online at www.manageyourage.com.