Summer skin needs protection
Summer has arrived, bringing a more relaxed schedule than that of the regular school year — at least for students. Relaxed schedules mean more time to enjoy social activities, and for the fortunate students in the sunny state of Texas, many of these activities take place outdoors.
Be it poolside or at the beach, soaking up the sun can be an enjoyable pastime. A day in the sun can leave some with glowing sun-kissed skin. For others, being in the sun without protection results in sunburns, as well as an increased risk for skin cancers and premature skin aging.
Taking the necessary precautions in order to avoid the negative effects of unprotected sun exposure is essential to enjoying outdoor activities. Not only does it prevent painful sunburns, but it reduces the radioactive effects of strong sunlight that can cause skin cancer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal cell cancer in over two million people are diagnosed annually — over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other types of cancer combined. Melanoma, another type of skin cancer, is less common than basal cell cancer, but it is related to suffering blistering sunburns when you are young and is more likely to be fatal.
UH Health Center Executive Director and Chief Physician Scott Spear gave advice for protecting skin from the sun, and how the UHC can treat different kinds of sunburns.
“Try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During these hours, the sun is most directly overhead — decreasing the absorption of UVA and UVB rays by the atmosphere and increasing the chance of skin injury,” Spear said. “Other ways to protect skin from sunburn include using sunblock based on your skin type and length of sun exposure. Wearing light-colored clothing and hats that cover your face and neck and arms and legs is also helpful. Although it may fly in the face of the desire to sunbathe, sitting in the shade during the middle of the day is actually healthier.”
Business sophomore Alexis Gray explains the precaution she takes to avoid sunburn when working out outdoors.
“I do my best to keep my skin safe. I have personally experienced a skin cancer scare, and it has made me more cautious. Sunscreen is a must. I don’t want to be as red as our cheer uniforms for football season,” Gray said.
If one does find themselves with a sunburn, however, proper treatment can alleviate some of the pain and support the healing process. Spear explained services that the UH Health Center offers.
“Each degree of sunburn requires different treatment,” Spear said. “For first degree sunburns where the skin is red, a cool, moist compress and drinking more fluids are most effective. For blistered, second degree sunburns, staff at the Health Center can carefully remove any blisters and dead skin to prevent infection and apply dressings as needed.”
In addition to in-office treatment, Health Center physicians can also prescribe a steroid cream to reduce redness and inflammation, and if characteristics of suspicious moles are present, provide a referral to a local dermatologist.
The American Academy of Dermatology states that most people apply only 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. The AAD recommends about an ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, will do in most cases when the strength is appropriate to skin type and length of exposure. It is important to reapply sunblock if sweating or swimming occurs. So, when it comes to skin care, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure.