Summer is here and with it comes fun under the sun. However, certain seasonal activities, such as going to the beach, tanning and water sports can cause more harm than good. Increased temperatures lead to an increased risk of sunburns and, ultimately, an increased risk of skin cancers and premature aging of the skin. This is especially true in the Rio Grande Valley and surrounding areas, where our proximity to the equator leads to hotter temperatures.
Sarah Kim, a local physician assistant (PA), shares the best ways to protect our skin while also having fun. Kim has been practicing under dermatologist Dr. Oscar Sotelo in McAllen for two years. She was drawn to dermatology because healthy hair, skin, and nails is important both medicinally and aesthetically.
Kim advised it’s best to use a mineral-based SPF 30 sunscreen on a daily basis.
“I would say sunscreen is something we should do all year,” she said. “However, it is especially important in the summer. You should also avoid sun exposure during the hottest part of the day,
wear sun-protective gear such as hats, and remember to reapply sunscreen as recommended.”
Sunscreen protects against all three of the most common skin cancers: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Additionally, ultraviolet rays from the sun penetrate into the skin, where they damage the elastic fibers that keep skin firm and cause wrinkles to develop. UV rays are also responsible for age spots and hyperpigmentation on the hands, face and other sun-exposed areas.
As for other suggestions, Kim said it all depends on a person’s personal skin goals.
“When my patients come to see me, the first thing I ask them about is their skincare concerns and goals,” she said. “Then, based on their concerns, I’ll make a skincare routine for them.”
One common concern is blemishes, spots and hyperpigmentation. Kim reiterates the importance of using sunscreen to help prevent and stop the progression of blemishes. She also recommends treatments such as Intense Pulsed Light Therapy (IPL), which can improve the color and texture of the skin within a few sessions.
When it comes to tanning, Kim said the beauty industry has made it easier to get a beautiful glow without harming our skin.
“There are so many ways that you can get a tan safely — with self-tanning lotion and bronzer, for example,” she said. “You just have to test and trial to see what products will work for you. I’m not telling people not to enjoy activities of life, right? Be outside, enjoy the sun, but just be more aware.
“I can see that more people are taking care of themselves and really wanting to seek out help, in large part due to social media and access to information. While you can still have fun and enjoy the sunlight, act responsibly in order to maintain a beautiful, youthful complexion and reduce your risk of skin cancer. People forget our skin is the largest organ in the body, and it’s the first line of defense against bacteria, chemicals, and toxins. The bottom line: our skin protects us, so we must protect our skin.”