It is necessary to think about sun protection and its harmful effects throughout the year, especially in summer because the UV index is much higher and we are more often (consciously or unconsciously) exposed to sun and UV radiation. It is important to be aware of certain information about the harmful effects of UV radiation in time so that you can behave responsibly in the sun and enjoy your vacation carefree, without the side effects that affect the beauty and health of your skin.
What skin changes can occur due to sun exposure? What to do if you get a sunburn? How to recognize a sun allergy? These, and many other questions are answered by an expert: doctor Sanda Gojčeta Burnić, a specialist in dermatology and venereology from the Varaždin General Hospital and the Adarta Polyclinic in Varaždin.
What skin changes does the sun cause and how to prevent them?
Most of ultraviolet radiation to which a person is exposed consists of UVA rays, which can lead to accelerated skin aging, the appearance of brown pigmentation on the skin and skin cancer. This occurs due to oxidative DNA damage in the skin. A small part of UV rays to which man on earth is exposed are UVB rays that cause acute skin damage in the form of burns and chronic damage that can also lead to skin cancer. As with most diseases, most important is prevention, which can be very successful if we follow certain rules: avoid exposing ourselves to the sun during a high UV index and protect ourselves with the proper use of a sunscreen. I advise my patients to use mechanical photo protection such as hats, sunglasses or clothes with a protective factor, the so-called UPF, which I especially recommend for children. Regarding SPF products, regular and proper use of products with broad spectrum protection is required. The main goal of skin protection from UV radiation is to prevent the development of malignant skin tumors.
In your experience, do your patients use a sunscreen product all year round?
Lately, I have noticed an increase in awareness of the need for photo protection, primarily thanks to the Internet and the availability of information. Still, most people don’t use sunscreen all year round, and those who use it do so mostly for beauty rather than health. I recommend my patients to find a product that suits them with its quality, price and texture and to use it regularly, as part of a morning routine such as face washing or dental hygiene, because photo-damage to the skin often occurs when we are not even aware of it: for example, when driving a car or while enjoying our time in the snow.
Do you notice certain mistakes that patients make when using SPF?
In talking to my patients and observing people on the beach, I notice that they very often mistakenly apply sunscreen in the sense that they forget certain areas such as ears, neck, hairline and hands. They also apply SPF products insufficiently or reapply them irregularly during prolonged sun exposure.
What are the most common reasons for consciously avoiding SPF?
As much as the internet is useful because of the availability of information, so often it is harmful because of the many misinformation that reach people. There are still people who believe that SPF creams are harmful to health, and even lead to skin cancer. Such information, of course, is not scientifically proven, and its effectiveness in protecting against skin cancer is. Also, the challenge is the male population, given that men generally use cosmetics less frequently, but also adolescents who are generally unprotected, even though they spend most of their time in the sun. Women are usually more responsible, but sometimes a layered routine and too many products can be a problem. I think that today there is no justification for irregular use of SPF products because there is a large selection of products on the market that are adapted to all requirements and skin types, so you can find light textures that are easy to apply and better tolerated on the skin, tinted formulations and creams for allergy-prone skin, such as products with mineral filters.
How can you help yourself in case of a sunburn?
Sunburn is unfortunately still very common, especially at younger age when it is most dangerous. Sunburn occur about eight hours after exposure to UVB rays that lead to the release of proinflammatory cytokines and apoptosis of cells in the skin. It is manifested by redness and later peeling of the skin, often accompanied with pain. The most common localizations are neck and shoulders (66%), head and face (53%) and arms and hands (40%). When it comes to sunburn, the most important thing is to get out of the sun as soon as possible. Cooled water compresses and skin epithelialization creams, such as panthenol creams, may be applied to sunburned skin. If necessary, in case of pain, oral anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen can be prescribed for a short time, and mild corticosteroid preparations prescribed by a doctor can be applied to the skin for several days.
How to recognize a sun allergy?
Allergies are mainly delayed skin hypersensitivity reactions that occur after exposure to ultraviolet rays, often in combination with other environmental factors such as contact with certain plants, taking medications or using certain cosmetic products. In the clinical picture, there is visible redness with flaking of the skin, or eczema with frequent itching in areas of the skin that are exposed to direct UV radiation. Solar urticaria is also possible, which, fortunately, is rare.
How often should a mole be examined?
Regular check-ups of moles in adults without risk factors are recommended once a year, in children it may be less frequent. In people with risk factors that include a large total number of moles, dysplastic moles, a positive family or personal history of melanoma or skin cancer, as well as phototype I or II skin, examination is recommended even more often.
Dr. Gojčeta Burnić's favorite Skintegra product is: