Educate Yourself About Sun Damage

What You Should Know 

By Susie Ippolito 

As the summer begins to fade into fall, we say so long to our sun-kissed skin and watch our complexions return to their natural hues. Almost. If you look closely, you will notice a few new marks that don’t fade with the season and some older marks that have become larger and darker in color.

You may also notice a change in your overall skin tone, elasticity and texture. That’s because while we were enjoying our fun in the sun, the sun was at work wreaking havoc on our skin.

Unfortunately, these concerns are mere vanity in comparison to the reality of sun-damaged skin.

Is it really that serious?


According to Dr. Brian Raphael of Empire Dermatology in East Syracuse, a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained dermatologic surgeon with a speciality in skin cancer surgery, sun damage is very serious. As much as we like to joke about getting our daily dose of vitamin D, we would be better off investing in a supplement and protecting our skin.

Take a moment and contemplate how much better pale skin looks than a permanent scar and other long-term damage to the skin.

“The sun works in a variety of ways to age your skin,” Brian explained. “It creates a reaction that leads to degradation of the cells that maintain the elasticity of the skin.”

This results in skin that is less bouncy, less resilient and may even sag a bit more than if we had taken proper precautions. If that’s not enough, he added that “our skin also reacts in a way to protect itself for future damage by creating a thicker epidermis.” Translation: that bronze glow is temporary and quickly replaced by thicker skin that is dull and dehydrated.

I never lay in the sun, so I’m not in danger of sun damage… said no dermatologist ever.

Incidental sun damage is as detrimental to the skin as a full day of fun at Green Lakes.

Incidental includes any time we are outside, like walking from the car to the office, into and out of the grocery store, and everything in between.

Brian is quite clear in his advice about daily sun protection.

“It is recommended to wear SPF 30 or above every day and — regardless of the brand or SPF number — it only lasts two to three hours,” he said, strongly suggesting reapplying every three hours at minimum.

Brian’s top sun safety tip is, simply put, to “seek shade.”

When should we be concerned?

Brian cautioned we should visit our dermatologist any time we notice something suspicious. He advised a monthly self-check practice to notice any changes in moles on the skin.

“Look for anything new, changing, bleeding, itching or worrisome,” he said.

Even if you do not have a history of skin cancer, Brian also noted that “it is beneficial to have a checkup with a board-certified dermatologist to get a baseline.” Once you know the starting point, you can make more careful observations about potentially dangerous changes to the skin.

A better way to get that J.Lo glow

Did you know that even J.Lo’s glow is faux? Yup. Her long-time makeup artist, Scott Barnes, is rumored to custom mix it for her in a blender. Lucky for us mere mortals, we have local organic spray tan expert Reena Nyquist to make us into bronze beauties.

Organic tanning? Really?

Yes. Really. According to Reena, by going organic, we avoid harsh chemicals that can be as damaging to us as laying in the sun. Non-organic spray tans contain chemical preservatives in the form of parabens, which are linked to a number of women’s health issues.

As an added benefit, Reena pointed out the organic spray used in her salon “is paraben-free, gluten-free, sulfate-free, nut-allergen-free and 100 percent vegan,” which results in a much more naturallooking tan. She also notes it will “not give you that orange look like non-organic products.” That is reason enough to go organic!

As it turns out — like our favorite cocktails — all forms of tanning are best enjoyed responsibly. SWM

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