Skin damage from sun exposure can occur any time of the year

Skin damage from unprotected exposure to the sun can occur any time of year, even during the winter.

"The highest level of concern is usually during the summer months, but sun damage can occur year-round, even on cloudy or rainy days," said Sarah L. Taylor, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. "In fact, many people don't realize that you also get sun exposure through windows at the office, at home or in cars, which is why dermatologists recommend that everyone wear broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, all year."

Taylor offered some simple steps to prevent sun damage and photoaging:

  • Broad spectrum, physical blocker sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium oxide with 30 or higher SPF are best.
  • Overapply liquid sunscreen, not sprays, including sides of face, ears, front and back of neck, hands and arms and any other skin that is exposed.
  • New powder sunscreens make it easier to reapply (even over makeup) during the day. Try to reapply every two hours if there is a lot of sunlight in your office or workplace.
  • A common misconception is that using multiple products with sunscreen, such as a moisturizer and makeup, provides double the protection, which isn't true, Taylor said. In fact, some sunscreen ingredients can deactivate others.

There is also scientific evidence that certain supplements may help decrease the effects of UV radiation on the skin, Taylor said.

  • Polypodium leucotomos, which is derived from a Central and South American fern, has been studied in Europe. A daily dose of 240 mg as an oral supplement is considered safe. Fernblock and Heliocare are two widely available brands.
  • Niacinamide, one of the B vitamins, is considered safe at doses of 500 mg taken twice a day.

"People may also want to use prescription retinoids to treat the signs of photoaging. Differin, which is less irritating and much less expensive than other retinoids, is now available over the counter," Taylor said.

Taylor stressed that any woman who is pregnant or trying to get pregnant should consult her physician before using any topical sunscreen, retinoid or nutritional supplement.

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