• Over the last 100 years our ideas about sun exposure have undergone significant changes. In the 1920s and 30s when our parents were growing up, sun exposure (especially for girls and women) was strongly discouraged as tanned brown skin was associated with the outside work of lower socioeconomic class laborers.

    Lentigoes (brown spots) before and after BBL Treatment

    Lentigoes (brown spots) before and after BBL Treatment

    By the 1960s when we were growing up, attitudes had changed and tanned skin was considered desirable (sexy). No longer was sun exposure correlated with outside labor but rather with outside recreation and therefore a higher socioeconomic class. A way to observe this change in attitudes is to look at bathing suit fashions from the bloomers and bonnets for women and “long johns” style for men in the early 1900s to the bikinis and speedos of the 1970s.

    Unfortunately, with this change in attitudes the incidence of skin cancers including melanomas increased substantially. The sun produces enormous amounts of electromagnetic energy much of which is in the range between ultraviolet and infrared including visible light which we remember from science class is made up of different colors (wavelengths) of light from red to violet (ROYGBIV) when passed through a prism. High energy electromagnetic radiation like gamma rays (nuclear) and x-rays are well known for their ability to produce damage and even death to our own cells. Ultraviolet (UV) rays coming from the sun are closest to gamma rays and x-rays in their power to cause cell damage and mutations which can result in cancer. If not for our earth’s ozone layer all life, both plant and animal, would be wiped out. Countries close to the ozone hole over the South Pole (Australia and New Zealand) do have higher rates of skin cancers. In addition to cancers, other effects of sun exposure include accelerated skin aging with brown and red spots, wrinkles and sagging skin.

    Preventing these damaging changes is our first defense; this can be done with clothing, big hats, umbrellas, staying in the shade, and avoiding peak sun brightness (between 11AM and 3PM daylight savings time). Sunscreens are useful for protecting exposed skin but require frequent reapplication to be most effective.

    Sun blocks, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide actually reflect sunlight away from our skin and can be made into water resistant formulations that don’t require asfrequent reapplication.

    skin2

    Lentigoes (brown spots) before and after BBL Treatment

    Prevention is great and can especially help our children and grandchildren, but for us baby boomers the horse may already be out of the barn. So what can we do to treat this sun induced skin damage and accelerated aging? Skin cancers are typically treated with surgery including the tissue sparing method of Moh’s surgery which performed by dermatologists or plastic surgeons. Damage which has not progressed to cancer can be treated by, of all things, LIGHT. Wavelengths (colors) away from the UV range can actually cause repair of damaged tissues and eliminate or reduce red and brown discoloration. Reports published in the medical literature have shown that a particular type and dosage of intense pulsed light (IPL) with brand name “Broad Band Light” (BBL) can reverse the appearance of skin aging as measured by photography and also by gene mapping. The gene mapping studies have demonstrated that light of particular intensities and wavelengths can “turn off” genes related to aging in the skin.

    We now have techniques to prevent further sun damage and to correct or reduce the damage that has already happened. Specific advice can be obtained from your local dermatologist, cosmetic medicine specialist, or plastic surgeon. So, what are you waiting for?

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    Read More About Sun Damage:

    The DermReview – Best Moisturizers for Face Type  (Dry, Oily, Sensitive, etc) 

    My 6 Discoveries About Laser for Sun Damage

    3 Ways to Prevent Eye Damage 

    Do You Know These 12 Things About Sunscreen

    Main photo: Shutterstock purchased image.

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    Article by: Robert Bowen

    Dr. Bowen is board certified in cosmetic laser surgery by the American Board of Laser Surgery. He is also a Fellow of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS), an organization providing important world-wide leadership in laser research, education, technology and clinical knowledge. Dr. Bowen is one of the first physicians in the United States to be Fellowship-trained in Aesthetic Medicine. This fellowship, the Aesthetic Anti-Aging Fellowship of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), provides comprehensive, expert, and hands-on training in aesthetic medicine techniques. Dr. Bowen is trained in cosmetic BOTOX injection, dermal fillers and facial sculpting, laser and light treatments, vein therapy, chemical peels, medical-grade skin care and body contouring.

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