Unprotected sun exposure – Cosmetics Magazine, March/April 2008
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Unprotected sun exposure – Cosmetics Magazine, March/April 2008

The Doctor Is In – Unprotected sun exposure: How dangerous is it?

By Alix Fuller
Cosmetics: Is UVA protection quantifiable?
Dr. Lisa Kellett: Some products offer UVA protection as well as UVB, but it’s not quantifiable. However, there are a number of organizations looking at some way of quantifying UVA protection in sun care products. 

C: What are the detrimental effects of too much UVA?
DLK: Let’s start with skin cancer, which manifests itself as four basic types:

  • Actinic keratoses: these are pre-cancers and up to 90% of the population with get them if they live long enough. They can go on to become squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated. They are, however, easily treated and curable.
  •  Basal cell carcinoma: This is very common, so much so that it’s estimated one in five people will get in their lifetime. It can be either a scaly red patch or a raised, pearly nodule. It’s the most easily treated and curable.
  •  Squamous call carcinoma: It could be a scaly patch or a non-healing lesion and is usually curable.
  •  Malignant melanoma: A brown, black, or red mole, or maybe just a red spot. Basically, my advice is to have anything that’s new or changes checked out by a dermatologist. Malignant melanoma is usually curable, but both it and Squamous cell carcinoma can metastasize. What happens then? You die.

C: Does it also cause those brown spots?
DLK: Yes. Solar lentigines, also known as liver spots, are a direct result. When the UV light penetrates to the nanocytes, they release excess pigment. They’re not dangerous and can be treated with a lightening product or laser treatment. 

C: What’s another detrimental effect?
DLK: Exacerbating the visible signs of skin aging, such as wrinkles; skin laxity or sagging; and sallow, lackluster skin. It affects the underlying collagen by breaking it down and slowing its rate of production thus weakening the skin’s structure. It also affects skin’s texture, hence the sallow skin. 

C: What about sun allergy?
DLK: It’s called polymorphous light eruption and sufferers are sensitive to a wavelength of light. It makes you itchy and red, and no amount of sun protection will prevent it. It’s quite common and there are many types and various degrees of severity. However, it’s very difficult to treat. There are a number of procedures, unfortunately it’s not curable.

C: What’s your advice?
DLK: Stay out of the sun between 10AM and 4PM. For protection, use a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher every day, year round. Use a shot glass size for the entire body. If you have oily skin or are male, you should opt for a spray. Thoroughly drench your body. Wear protective clothing: there are some new lines that will block UV rays (www.sunprotectiveclothing.com for one). Otherwise, wear something that has a tight weave. Wear a hat with a brim wide enough to shade your face and back of your neck and don’t forget about the front of your neck either.

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