Healthwatch 16: Dealing with the Sun

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MAHONING TOWNSHIP -- Ah, summertime… nothing better than getting outside and enjoying some fresh air and sunshine, whether you love boating on your favorite lake, cooling off at the community pool, or hitting the waves and the sand on the beach.

You already know how important it is to use enough sunscreen, but chances are you have already done a fair amount of sun damage to your skin.

"It's extremely important to start now to protect yourself from the sun."

Dr. Lindsay Eisler knows a thing or two about skin.  She's a facial plastic surgeon at Geisinger's Cosmetic Center, at the Woodbine facility near Danville. She explains that sun damage is cumulative, over your lifetime.

But no matter what you've done or not done in the past, she says to make sunscreen a part of your daily routine now, not just think of it when you'll be in the sun.

Also, consider reducing your exposure completely, for example, sitting under an umbrella if you're hanging out on the sand.

There are ways to detect how much sun exposure you already have, but Dr. Eisler says Mother Nature will usually show you on her own, typically in the form of darker spots on your skin.

"People who have more exposure to the sun tend to look older quicker, fine wrinkles that become even darker wrinkles, skin loses elasticity, and you start to have that leathery weathered appearance," Dr. Eisler explained.

And that's just how sun damage looks.  Medically, too much sun can be dangerous by increasing your risk of developing skin cancer.

"Over time, you can develop skin cancer in the form of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or even melanoma. If you have spots or new lesions you want to bring that to your doctor's attention," Dr. Eisler added.

As far as preserving the skin you already have, Dr. Eisler says getting on a good skincare regimen is a good idea.

And there are a number of minimally invasive procedures available using lasers and or chemical peels, but nothing beats enjoying the sun safely with sunscreen not doing any further damage.

According to Dr. Eisler, those laser and other procedures are best done when you're not getting a lot of sun exposure, in the fall, for instance, after you've been out of the sun for a few weeks.