“Summer summer summertime. Time to sit back and unwind.”
These are the first two lines of one of my favorite summer anthems – the popular 2002,“Summertime,” by Will Smith, affectionately known then as the Fresh Prince.
Ironically, at the time of this song’s release, I was deep in the weeds of medical school, studying furiously day and night at my assigned cubicle in the cold dark library. I was neither sitting back, nor unwinding. Nor was I enjoying the beautiful sunshine that the Fresh Prince implied.
I was, in fact, studying the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) light on our skin cells. UV light harms the DNA, or functioning parts of our skin cells. Under normal conditions, small or intermittent doses of UV light causes damage that can be repaired quickly and effectively; however, chronic, excessive, or intense amounts of UV light damages our cells’ ability to repair itself. This damaged DNA then results in skin cancer and “photoaging,” such as premature wrinkles, black or brown spots, or extreme redness.
Now that I’m older, wiser, and far-less uptight, I have come to appreciate both the negative and beneficial effects of sunlight. The sun converts UV light to Vitamin D within our skin. Vitamin D is important for a whole host of cellular and bodily functions. Without it, we can suffer from a plethora of maladies like fatigue, mood dysfunction, and joint pain, just to name a few. Put simply, the sun just makes us feel good. Like all things, of course, we should approach the summer months and our relationship with the sun with moderation.
Moderation, in the form of proper sun protection, includes the use of protective clothing, avoiding prolonged peak UV-times, and wearing proper sunscreen. Broad-brimmed hats, pants, and long-sleeved shirts exemplify the types of clothes that help protect us from the sun. Brands like Coolibar, Solbari, and LL Bean are lightly weighted and fashionable brands that complement any comprehensive sun protective regimen.
The UV-index, a measurement of the sun’s intensity and therefore its likelihood of causing skin cancer, is highest between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. Therefore, we should do our best to reduce prolonged sun exposure during these times. I find this fact encouraging since in the summertime, although the temperature is much hotter around 4:00 pm, the UV index is actually much lower by this time.
Finally, we should all be wearing sunscreen with an SPF between 30 and 50. A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 will block approximately 97% of UV rays, while a sunscreen with an SPF of 50 will block closer to 99% of UV rays. Therefore, it is not necessary to seek or apply sunscreens with excessively high SPF numbers, as there is only a very marginal protective benefit above an SPF of 50. I once saw a sunscreen with an SPF 2000 rating, an absurdity that made me laugh out loud. It’s also important to remember to reapply our sunscreens. Brands like ColoreScience, SkinMedica, and EltaMD provide high quality affordable sunscreens which are cosmetically elegant and make reapplying fun and super simple. I’m particularly a fan of ColoreScience’s sunforgettable brush. This 100% natural, hypoallergenic sunscreen is made from pure minerals and goes on quite smoothly. Because it is applied dry, it is brushes easily over your moisturizer, makeup, or existing sunscreen.
So, whether you’re at a barbecue, wiping your car down, or watching the old folks dance at your family reunion, make sure you wear your hat and your sunscreen. To not do so, would be the new definition of summer madness.
By Kafele T. Hodari, MD
Dr. Hodari is a board-certified dermatologist who’s been practicing medicine for 14 years. He is a partner in North Valley Dermatology and the owner and Medical Director of Rejuvené, the North State’s premier dermatology and aesthetic treatment center. He specializes in both general and cosmetic dermatology. If you would like your moles checked, want a cancer screening, or just want clearer smoother skin, call 530-342-8295 to schedule your consultation today!