I have enjoyed the Colorado outdoors since I was a child. Growing up in a family that values what this state has to offer meant camping in the mountains, fishing on the Western Slope, hiking anywhere we could, attending the State Fair in Pueblo, and countless other memories enjoying the sunshine in Colorado – year round. It also meant my fair share of blistering sunburns and even one case of sun poisoning when I was around 8 years old. You see I am pretty fair and grew up when there wasn’t much emphasis on sun protection. Two things have come from that experience as I have gotten older, I am faithful to get a yearly skin exam by a dermatologist and I have worn daily sunscreen on my face since I turned the age of 24. What changed for me was the start of a career in my early twenties in the cosmetics industry, where I learned about the results of accumulated photo-damage over a lifetime; lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging skin. Maybe vanity opened my eyes to what the sun does to skin, but it was the education on how to still enjoy the outdoors safely that helped the most. I learned to give into my desire to be outside and to stay motivated to keep my skin healthy.
The most important thing I have learned is that a yearly skin check-up makes a difference. I go to the dentist twice a year for my dental health, why not go once a year to check on my skin health? Most of the time, I leave the dentist with a good report, clean teeth and a date in my calendar for my next appointment. A few times I have had a small cavity needing attention or an old filling that needed replacement. I do those things and get on with my life. Why is skin any different? It seems better to me to have someone trained to look for changes before they become a bigger problem and deal with them then. I have had a few places biopsied over the years because I thought they had changed since my last yearly visit or my dermatologist wanted to look a little closer at a spot she found. So far, they have been benign. If that changes at any point, I am reassured by the fact that melanoma has 99% five-year survival rate if detected before it reaches the lymph nodes. This alone is motivation to keep those yearly skin check-ups!
I have come to appreciate that healthy skin is truly beautiful skin. We all see changes as skin matures. Some lines and wrinkles, some sagging skin, some new brown spots, dullness, etc. This type of damage is from UVA rays. This accumulates and damages the skin and we see the effects as we age. UVB rays cause immediate, visible damage in the form of tan or red skin. Here is a picture of UV spots, the damage that is behind about 90% of these aging concerns. (This is an example of the images I use with the help of our Visia at clara during a skin consultation.)
Avoiding all signs of photo-damage is not possible. Minimizing them and slowing those signs down is possible though. There is not a thing wrong with aging skin. “My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?” – fashion designer, Dianne Von Furstenberg. I agree with Ms. Von Furstenberg, and add this to her sentiment – it is healthier skin that should be the goal.
It is never too late to reduce the impact UV has on aging concerns. This photo-damage is cumulative so daily use of an SPF of 30 or higher is a habit worth starting as an adult of any age. Clothing that blocks UV is also more fashionable and easier to find than any other time in the past. Adding some pieces into your year-round wardrobe will help cover those areas we don’t always realize are getting exposure until we see the signs of crepiness or brown spots on our hands or chest. A recent recommendation I got from someone I know that is both fashionable and vigilant with her sun protection is coolibar.com. Finding items for myself and as gifts from clothing companies that offer UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 50+ and that are fun to wear is one easy way to help protect the skin.
The question I asked, “is safe sun exposure possible?” is the same one I continue to ask. I love helping others to have better, healthier skin and I want to do the best I can for my skin too. The answer I came up with to that question is yes, you can enjoy the sun and do it more safely. Enjoying the things when we are exposed to sunlight, like driving, walking the dog, sitting by the window reading a good book along with the activities that bring us outside into the beautiful Colorado outdoors, is possible to do with more safe sun exposure habits.
My Sun-Safe Tips:
- Wear a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 SPF or higher
- Reapply, don’t fry! Every 90 minutes is ideal – more often if sweating, swimming, or in high humidity
- Generous application of sunscreen matters – 1 ounce on the body, 1 tablespoon for the face (including neck, eye area, and ears)
- Vitamin C – adding this antioxidant topically during the day helps prevent the other type of environmental damage – pollution
- NO tanning beds – ever.
- Try UPF clothing and hats
- Get a yearly skin exam by a dermatology provider
- Encourage sun safe habits in kids
To schedule your yearly Total Body Skin Exam, call Vanguard Skin Specialists at 719-355-1585. Locations are North Colorado Springs, Woodland Park, Pueblo, and South Colorado Springs.
To schedule a complimentary skin consultation with Lisa at clara, call 719-579-5555. clara is located at the North Colorado Springs Vanguard Skin Specialists location.