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Wyoming Medical Center

Befriend Your Summer Skin

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07/01/2012 - By Mel Schwartz

Wyoming Medical Center Community Development

When the sun beckons us each summer, we make our way outside en masse to enjoy it. Like sardines in a can, we fill our local swimming pools, rivers, parks, and backyards to welcome the season with our friends and family.

As we celebrate being outdoors, we should remember to bring along appropriate clothing and sunscreen in order to keep our skin protected from the sun.

Under normal circumstances, our skin is remarkably resilient and will regenerate and repair itself time and again. Repeated exposure to the sun's UVA and UVB rays, however, results in permanent damage to the DNA of the skin cells and often leads to pre cancer lesions or skin cancer.

"UVB rays are the culprits behind blistering and sunburns, and UVA rays are most commonly found in tanning booths," says Dr. Scott Bennion, MD, dermatologist at Central Wyoming Skin Clinic. "While UVA rays are less likely to cause sunburns, they are more insidious because they penetrate deeper into the layers of skin to cause additional damage."

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And we receive up to 5 percent more of these rays for every 1000 feet above sea level, as there is less atmosphere at higher elevations to minimize the strength of UV light. Furthermore, Dr. Bennion says that it is the lightest colored surfaces like snow that strongly reflect the energy of the sun, a fact that accounts for the severe sunburns that skiers experience after a day on the mountain.

Everyday care of the skin differs from person to person, and one can do little but wait as the skin heals from sunburns. At the Central Wyoming Skin Clinic, Dr. Bennion treats people with all skin types, offering an array of dermatological services that include an excimer laser to treat psoriasis; skin surgeries including Mohs surgery, which is the most effective treatment for basal cell skin cancer; dermal peels; microderm abrasion; and Botox, as well as a comprehensive collection of skin care products. He says that protecting the skin is not as difficult as people might imagine, and the rewards often save lives.

"There are two primary ways to protect the skin," says Dr. Bennion. "First, cover up and use a broad spectrum sunscreen or sun block of SPF 30 or greater for areas of the skin left exposed to the sun. These products have chemicals that will protect the skin against the sun's damaging rays. Second, don't smoke. The short-term and long-term effects of smoking on the skin and every other part of the body are extremely dangerous."

So shield your skin from the sun. Wear appropriate clothing and fully brimmed hats, and use sun block that has continuous protection for times spent in the water. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours, and people should avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., as it is the middle of the day when the sun is strongest.

"You can maintain younger skin as you age by taking precautions so that the dermis—the secondary layer of skin that consists of both collagen and elastin—is better protected," says Dr. Bennion. "These precautions will keep your skin softer and smoother and healthier."

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