As summer heats up and temperatures rise, exposure to the sun becomes more frequent and for longer periods of time.
Tis the holiday season when a large number of people choose various seaside resorts where sunbathing is an inevitable part of the day's planned activities. But in addition to its many advantages for the skin, direct sunlight can also be harmful.
What are the risks of prolonged exposure to the sun and how to choose the most suitable sun protection product for our skin - these questions are answered by Dr. Krasimir Mitkov, dermatovenerologist at the "Alexandrovska" DCC.
What are the most common problems for our skin during the summer season and how do they manifest themselves, Dr. Mitkov?
- Summer is associated with good weather, pleasant mood and, of course, warming, which means more sun, heat, sweating, increased humidity and generally suitable conditions for skin problems. Chronic exposure to the sun without proper protection causes the so-called photoaging of skin that thickens, existing wrinkles deepen and loses its elasticity.
The basis of this process is dehydration. The sun is also the "culprit" for the appearance of pigment spots (melasma, chloasma). These spots are light to dark brown in color, appear more often in women and mainly on the skin of the face. Of course, in addition to sunlight, factors such as hormonal balance, heredity and certain medications also play a role here.
For women with melasma, regular skin protection with sun creams is especially important. Exposure to strong sun without photoprotection can also cause sunburn, which is characterized by severe redness of the skin, and in development can lead to the appearance of blisters. It is important to note that burns, especially in early childhood, are a proven prerequisite for the development of skin cancer in the future.
The combination of certain chemical substances, applied to the skin from the outside or entered into it via the bloodstream, can act toxic or cause allergic reactions in the skin under the influence of the sun's rays. Therefore, especially people with lighter and sensitive skin should carefully read the leaflets of drugs for internal and external use, paying special attention to data about increased photosensitivity.
A variety of rashes associated with exposure to the sun usually appear in early summer and often recur at the same time of the year. It is especially easy to get spots and rashes if one is exposed to the sun for a long time. This sensitivity is known as sun allergy. It has been found that it occurs most often in people between the ages of 20 and 40. Rashes are heterogeneous, located in areas that are exposed to the sun for the first time, and usually improve as the summer progresses. It is important to know the characteristics of this disease so that you can protect yourself from the beginning of summer by wearing appropriate clothes and applying sunscreen.
Summer is also a prerequisite for contracting some typical skin viral infections such as viral warts and contagious molluscum. They are typical of childhood.
Here we should also mention common herpes, recurrences of which are very often provoked by prolonged exposure to the sun.
There are skin diseases where the sun is always harmful. They require very strict photo protection. Such diseases are skin lupus, dermatomyositis, pemphigus, actinic lichen, rosacea.
The cosmetic market offers a wide variety of sunscreen creams and lotions, but how to choose the right product?
- There are 6 known skin phototypes, according to which you can orient yourself on what protection factor you need.
Phototype 1 (very white skin, light eyes, light hair, many moles, areas with tattoos) burns very quickly and is among the most at risk of developing cancer. If you have this type of skin, you should use a sunscreen with the highest factor of 50+ and avoid going to the beach.
Photo type 2 (fair skin, blonde or light brown hair, blue or brown eyes, freckles on the skin) you should choose a photo protection product with factor 50 or can use a cream with -low factor, but not less than 30. For the best protection in the first days of vacation, use the high factor - SPF 50, and in the following days you can reduce the factor with a lower factor to SPF 20 or 30.
If your skin is phototype 3 (fair skin, brown hair, brown or light eyes), you may be most favored because with proper use of sunscreen products you will not you will burn, and you will be able to get a nice tan. You need an average degree of protection - factor 15, 20 or 30.
Matte skin, dark brown hair and brown eyes are characteristic external signs of phototype 4 People of this phototype can enjoy the sun's rays for a long time, unlike those with the first three skin phototypes. You still need to protect your skin from damage, so use a sunscreen with an SPF of 10 or 15.
Phototype 5 and 6 (dark skin, dark hair and eyes) are almost identical, and dermatologists are of the opinion that these skins have a developed absorption of the sun's rays. And yet it's still good to apply sunscreen, even with the lowest factor.
For children, it is good to always use the highest protection factor, as their skin is sensitive. In addition, children are engrossed in playing outside and on the beach and spending a long time in the sun, which requires them to have very good skin photoprotection. Apply sunscreen half an hour before sun exposure. During this time, the product is absorbed by the skin and begins to work. Always use different sunscreens for face and body, as the skin on the face is more delicate. Apply sunscreen even if you're under an umbrella on the beach.
And under the shade the sun reflects off the water and sand and you can burn if your skin is lighter and not protected. The places people most often forget to apply sunscreen are their feet and toes. And some of the most vulnerable areas are the feet, armpits, back of the neck, ears, eyelids and upper arms on the inside. Monitor the expiration date of products at home. If you decided to use the same cream from last summer, make sure it has not expired.
Based on the most common skin cancer symptoms, when should people seek medical attention?
- Melanoma is a malignant tumor originating from moles and is the skin tumor that develops quite quickly, affects young people and metastasizes relatively early. The skin is an organ that has a great advantage - it is available for observation and with the naked eye by each of us. That is, if we monitor it regularly and know what to look for, we should practically not miss the changes. That is why we always mention the ABCDE rule, where A comes from asymmetry, B - from border, C - from color, D - from diameter and E - from evolution. When dynamics are found in any of these parameters (and they most often all change to some extent), then it is important to visit a dermatologist. The good news is that regardless of the changes in a large number of cases the problem is completely correctable, the bad news is that these changes do not give any subjective complaints and do not bother the patients.
In practice, if regularly, 3 - 4 times a year, we carefully inspect the accessible areas - chest, abdomen, limbs, and the partner with whom we live observes the back, we should not miss the change. It is good prevention that is the best bet for success in the fight against melanoma.
Here is the time to remind about keratomes. These are pre-cancerous growths of the skin that begin to appear over time on photo-exposed areas of the skin, most often the face, the crown in previously balding men, the shoulders, forearms and the backs of the hands. They are reddish spots that sometimes itch, peel or become covered with fine crusts. Over time, squamous cell carcinoma may develop from them, so they should be monitored and consulted if changes are noticed.
Pools are also a favorite place for relaxation and entertainment in the summer. What risks do they pose and how can we protect ourselves?
- High temperatures and sweating are factors that favor the development of various types of fungi on the skin. A common disease is the so-called variegated lichen. It is characterized by clustered pinkish-brown spots on the skin of the shoulders, chest and back, which turn white after the summer season. This is due to the fact that the fungus, in this case Malassezia, makes a screen that prevents the sun's rays from reaching the skin. Another common fungal disease is athlete's foot. The intertoes and lateral areas of the arch of the foot are most often affected. It is characterized by redness of the skin, itching and an unpleasant odor. It is most often caused by dermatophytes. Their important feature is the formation of spores. They are very common and resistant to therapy. If the used socks, slippers, shoes are not prevented, relapses often occur.
Problem areas in the summer are also the large skin folds - the groin, armpits and the area under the breasts in women. There, favorable conditions are created for the development of both dermatophytes and the Candida fungus. People with diabetes and overweight should pay special attention.