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Summer Skin-Saving Strategies

Now that the last days of summer are waning, women and men are noticing the changes and damage that have occurred in their skin. Even though severe damage is the result of years of abuse, the Saturday Early Show is here to tell you what type of damage has occurred and what can be done to correct some of it.

Dr. David Bank, a dermatologist with the Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic and Laser Surgery in Mount Kisco, New York, and author of Beautiful Skin: Every Woman’s Guide to Looking Her Best at Any Age, tells us what types of products and ingredients can start to repair our skin.

What kind of damage can the sun do in just one summer?

A lot. The deleterious effects of the sun on skin include sunburn, premature aging (also termed photo aging), and the start of the cumulative exposure that can lead to skin cancer.

The sun's rays produce free radicals that damage the basic building blocks of all cells (DNA) and deplete the reserves of protective antioxidants in the skin. The sun also damages the structural support of the skin, the collagen, as well as the elastin fibers that help the skin spring back when stretched. The sun stimulates the pigment-producing cells. Hence, the premature aging or photo aging is characterized by uneven pigmentation, brown spots, wrinkles, fine lines, sagging skin, and a leathery appearance. Signs of sun damage lead to dull and dry appearance of the skin and a rough feel.

Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important things that you can do to protect your skin. What should sunscreen contain?

Remember, even if you were careless this summer, it is never too late to start. In fact, all people should apply sunscreen daily from early March until the end of October. If you have not been using a sunscreen, let this weekend mark the beginning of the application of a broad-spectrum or physical blocking sunscreen--one that blocks both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation. Ideally, it should have titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. These are considered physical blockers: They block out the sun.

How much should you use, and does SPF30 protect twice as much as SPF15?

The numbers aren't literal. You are not doubling your protection from 15 to 30. You are only getting an additional 5%. But dermatologists recommend everyone wear SPF15. It is suggested that a shot glass full of sunscreen should be used to protect the entire body. It's important not to apply it sparingly, especially to the face.

What can be done to repair the damage already done by the sun?

It is the ingredients that you should pay attention to. Look for products that contain vitamins A, C, and E. Products that contain these vitamins can help to restore the depleted supply of antioxidants in the skin so the skin is better able to fight the effects of the sun and to repair itself. The vitamin-containing products may also serve to rehydrate the skin and remove sme of the dry, dull, dead skin layers.

What can someone do about the post-summer-sun brown spots or an overall uneven skin tone?

Discoloration is very noticeable at the end of the summer. New brown spots develop over the summer and existing spots have probably gotten darker on the face, hands, chest, and arms. The brown spots can be treated with creams that contain an ingredient called hydroquinone. The uneven skin tone likewise is improved with hydroquinone-containing products. The addition of glycolic acid to the hydroquinone probably hastens the fading or resolution of these spots.

These work to improve the tone, or even the look of the skin, but not the texture. How can you improve the texture?Products containing glycolic acid or alpha-hydroxy acid generally make the skin smoother and softer. The texture improves greatly and the skin tone also improves through the ability of the products to exfoliate or remove the dead layers of skin. These roducts have the potential to be effective. However, the efficacy is predicated upon adequate application of the product to the skin and the successful delivery of the active ingredient to the skin.

What can we do to repair the structure of the skin?

Retinol contained in several over-the-counter creams and lotions serves to repair the skin by increasing the collagen in the dermal layer of the skin (helping fine lines and sagging of the skin), increasing the turnover of skin cells in the epidermis, and reducing brown spots.

Can these be used in combination? Are there side effects?

I would not layer them. You can use one in the morning and one in the evening. You don't want one to degrade the other. People should be aware of the fact that the application of several products to the skin at the same time might inactivate one or both of the products. It is important for women to know that some of these products have the potential to produce unwanted side effects. These side effects may include dryness, irritation, redness, burning, stinging, and a rash. If these side effects occur, a woman should discontinue use until she checks with her doctor. Finally, the products have the potential to make women more sensitive to the sun, so sunscreen use is essential.

Nothing will prevent the development of pre-skin cancers or of skin cancers. Therefore, it is important for all people to see their dermatologist for a complete head-to-toe examination of their skin for skin cancer.
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