Monday, June 26, 2006

Burnt by the Sun

Maybe I've been a physician too long. During a recent trip to Hawaii, while every one was admiring the beach, I found myself distracted by the multiple sun bathers who were sizzling like fajitas in the sun. I had to fight the urge to go over and slather them with sunscreen.

So what should you to do to avoid me and the damages caused by the ultraviolet lights of the sun? Ideally it would be best to avoid being outside between the hours of 10 AM and 3 PM, but we all know how abstinence works as a form of prevention for any thing. Experts agree that you should use sunscreen as well as protective clothing when enjoying the outdoors.

There are several brands of sunscreen in the market. Use one that has at least an SPF of 15 which blocks 93% of UVB radiation. An SPF of 30 blocks 97% of the radiation so I prefer this one. I asked Dr. Patricia Wong, a practicing dermatologist in Palo Alto, CA for her preferred sunscreen. She recommends Skinceutical's Ultimate Defense SPF 30 sunscreen because it provides full ultraviolet protection (UVB and UVA) with the minimum number of ingredients which is ideal for patients with sensitive skin. The zinc oxide particles have been formulated so that no white sheen is left on the skin.

It is important to apply sunscreen correctly. It should be applied about 20 minutes before going outdoors. The average adult wearing a bathingsuit needs to use about 1 oz. to cover the body adequately. American Academy of Dermatology recommends reapplication every 2 hours after swimming or heavy perspiration.

There is no effective treatment once the sunburn occurs. Cold compresses, emollients and acetaminophen may relieve symptoms but no medication improves the healing time.
Once again, prevention is key.

Reference: The Medical Letter, Volume 46, Issue 1184, June 7, 2004.
Disclosure: I have no financial or other other interest in Skincutical.


Magnus Timmerby said...

I have always wondered... This advice is surely all fine and well; all doctors recommend sunscreen. But, why now? How did we cope in the old days? The use of sunscreen is very, very recent in human history.

Fair-skinned people have been around at least 10,000 years. Dark-skinned homo sapiens appeared maybe 200,000 years ago. And maybe we shouldn't stop there, because species before homo sapiens possibly had roughly the same type of human skin, possibly without undergoing too much mutation. If this is true, then maybe we should look a few million years back.

And sunscreen has been recommended and in wide use for only a couple of decades!

So, what changed recently?

Has the sun radiation suddenly become bad? Is this why we need sunscreen today but not in the old days?

Or has the same risk always been there, only science has just recently (= in our day and age) come to understand it? This would implicate that hordes of people in the past died unnecessarily of the very same skin cancer, is this true?

Or has the human race recently undergone a mutation that makes us sensitive to radiation; the same radiation that we could handle effortlessly in the past?

Neil Fraser said...

"So, what changed recently?"

What's changed is that our life expenctancy is no longer 40. If you only plan to live till 40, then skin cancer caused by sun exposure won't get you.

Anonymous said...

Our unsustainable activity is destroying ozone layer in the Stratosphere. This ozone layer filters out the harmful ultraviolet ray before sunray falls on the earth's surface. We have started producing and emitting ODS (Ozone depleting substances) like CFC ( used in refrigerators, air conditioners etc),methyl bromide ( fumigents) and lots other chemicals that are widening the ozone hole. That ozone hole is forming over the Antarctica was only discovered by scientist during the 1980's.

Thus in the old days sunsreen was not required. Now use of sunscreen and UV-ray protective goggles in the outdoor is a must to prevent skin vcancer, cataract and lots other diseases.

Right Wing Nut said...

The other factor maybe that fair skinned and dark skinned people didn't much migrate to different climates a few thousand years ago. Sure, there were horses and boats, but no planes, trains and automobiles for the casual traveller -- if such a thing even existed back then.

So, you pretty much stayed put in a location that was compatible with your skin type. However, now that you can go anywhere in the world, those previous barriers no longer exist and you need sunscreen unless you want to be naturally selected from the gene pool.

localdada said...

I am sure the Ultimate UV Defense 30 is good, but at $34 for 90ml, I belive only people drawing a google salary can afford it on a regular basis.

No spite, jus cold fact.

Dr. Taraneh Razavi said...

You're right Arunan, that's pricey.
But just to reiterate any sunscreen with SPF of 30 or even 15 will do. I am often asked for the best one for special circumstances such as for sensitive skin, etc. which is why I had mentioned this particular recommendation.

Anonymous said...

In the old days, we also "worked on our tans" before we went to the beach. We developed a "base tan" that helped us not burn.

Now that we know that's bad for us, we just go out there with our naked pink skin. So we burn easily, even with sunscreen.

- a pale 40-year-old northerner

Matthew said...

It's nothing new. Many people have always developed skin cancer (and still do). This is just one more way to minimize it.

Clinton Wasylishen said...

So here we have a problem... the Australians said "need sunscreen" then suddenly there was a problem with Vitamin D deficiency... then there is the second problem where sunscreen becomes TOXIC when exposed to heat.

We need sunlight, people need Vitamin D, and that Vitamin D comes from the sun. Should people lounge around like beached whales tanning endlessly, probably not, but at the end of the day, if they aren't burning their skin, they are not at risk for skin cancer either... and to add a bit more, skin cancer is not a huge deal to fix (not even remotely).

Sunburn=free radical damage. Best way to treat... how about antioxidants.

Too simple? Perhaps, but give it a go... I don't burn anymore, and I consume a vast array of antioxidants. Could be that, could be resistance to UV, I dunno... but I don't have skin cancer either, and I haven't put sunscreen on for about a year ;)

texmex said...

I love that discussion and it reminded me that I saw prevention on your goals for this blog.

Information in your note is only one sighted and should be definitively mellowed by all those comments here. I am glad I came to read them as they reflect my position.

You mentionned prevention and I will mention common sense. No sunscreen ever prevented me from having a sun burn if I stayed in the sun at lunch time in the summer on the beach. But this year, nobody in my family got a single sun burn with a little common sense...and no sunscreen.

Sun screen is a good way to make money to some big companies. Eating habits will help, and building a tan slowly and regularly will definitively prevent problems.

And prevention is the best isn't it?!

And I didn't even go in the discussion of the toxicity of most sunscreen... and their potential cause for diseases.

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Anonymous said...

Dr Razavi, in your original post, I wonder if you meant that we should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours AND after swimming/perspiring.

I am very fair (mostly Norwegian) and managed a vacation in the South Pacific by reapplying sunscreen religiously every two hours, regardless of what I'd been doing. I only burned once, when I took about four hours to reapply instead of two. Other pale-skinned people, in particular, should be aware that the whole key is frequent reapplication, even if all you've been doing is sitting around.

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Hans said...

$34 for 90ml is maybe costly but if it is to protect your skin from burning and you like to sit in the sun then it is not all that much money imho


Odin said...

In deciding to use a medicine, the risks of taking the medicine must be weighed against the good it will do. This is a decision you and your doctor will make. For isotretinoin, the following should be considered:

1. Allergies:
Tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to isotretinoin, acitretin, etretinate, tretinoin, or vitamin A preparations.

2. Pregnancy:
Isotretinoin must not be taken during pregnancy because it causes birth defects in humans.

3. Breast-feeding
Isotretinoin should not be used during breast-feeding because it may cause unwanted effects in nursing babies.

4. Children
Children may have the side effects of back, joint, or muscle pain more often than adults.

5. Older adults
Older people may have a greater risk of problems and adverse effects when taking isotretinoin.

Information on the development, history and legacy of Accutane:

Accutane and Pregnancy: Guidelines for Females
1. Accutane and Pregnancy
2. Accutane and Birth Control
3. Accutane and Breastfeeding

Accutane and Pregnancy

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happy said...

And do you have more information about sun for the different skin type?