Ahh, the great outdoors. The Lowcountry has so much to offer, including sandy beaches, award-winning golf courses and miles of bike paths.
But summer fun can take a toll on your skin. From bug bites to breakouts and the dangers of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, protecting your skin during the heat of summer can be a daunting task.
Still, there are many options to protect yourself. Avoiding the sun’s most powerful hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. is a start, but that’s prime beach time. If you’re heading out to enjoy the surf and sand, bring an umbrella to create your own shady retreat.
Light colored hats and protective beachwear can be stylish, but sunburns are always out of style. So slather on the sunblock, drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and excessive alcohol.
While we’re talking about sun health, let’s debunk some of the myths surrounding fun in the sun.
Here is our top five countdown:
Myth No. 5: It’s too late for me to start using sunscreen.
It’s never too late to prevent additional damage and reduce your risk. We know that getting blistering sunburns in our youth does increase the risk of skin cancers down the road. I hear it all the time: “But doc, the damage is done.” Don’t throw in the towel. There are still benefits in shielding your delicate skin cells from harsh UVA and UVB rays.
Myth No. 4: A base tan will prevent me from burning.
Tan skin is skin that has suffered the consequences of sun exposure. Skin cells respond by releasing stores of melanin to try to protect themselves from additional damage. The idea that a tanned body looks “healthier” is an unfortunate side effect of aesthetic trends and marketing. Reduce your cancer risk by opting for a spray tan instead.
Myth No. 3: I can’t get a sunburn on a cloudy day.
Au contraire. The sun is constantly producing harmful radiation, and the clouds, sand and even snow will reflect this. Strangely, our risk of damage can be even greater on partly cloudy days than on sunny days. Scientists believe this is due to a process called refraction, whereby the rays are amplified.
Myth No. 2: People of color don’t get skin cancer.
I often reference the famous Jamaican musician Bob Marley when it comes to this myth. He died of melanoma that grew under his toenail. It is true that the darker a person’s natural skin tone, the less likely they are to develop skin cancer.
Unfortunately, similar to breast cancer, African-Americans have a higher chance of dying from the disease.
Myth No. 1: I need sun exposure to get Vitamin D.
While it is true that solar rays can lead to Vitamin D production in our bodies, it only takes about 5 minutes before the maximum production is reached.
The irony is that additional sun exposure can actually lead to the breakdown of Vitamin D, not to mention premature aging and skin cancers.
The safest way to boost your body’s Vitamin D levels is through diet and supplemental vitamins from the health store. Dairy products, spinach, kale, soybeans and some fatty fish are great sources of Vitamin D.
Dr. Audrey Klenke, the area’s only female plastic surgeon, is the owner of Pinnacle Plastic Surgery. She is a member of the medical staff at both Beaufort Memorial Hospital and Hilton Head Hospital.