When I was growing up, my mom was always pretty serious about sun safety. She slathered us with sunscreen and made us wait 20 minutes in the shade before getting in the pool. We wore hats and protective clothing whenever possible and necessary. I even remember on certain days when the UV index was particularly high, she had us wear full clothes to go swimming. Though I strayed a bit away from this when I was a teenager, now an adult who worries about aging faster than her years, I’ve come back around. This now-viral photo of a 92-year-old woman’s skin proves just how incredibly important sunscreen and UV protection is for your skin.
Why This 92-Year-Old’s Photo Proves The Importance of Sunscreen
Sunscreen and whether or not you should use it has come under debate in recent years. Some still say it is important for skin protection, while others say that chemicals in sunscreen make its sun-protecting effects null and void. This post by New York dermatologist Dr. Avi Bitterman shows the skin of a 92-year-old woman, and it’s a reminder that sunscreen is still an extremely important part of skincare. (1)
In the photo, you can see the woman’s skin on her face in comparison to the skin on her neck. She has been a religious sunscreen user her entire life, never leaving the house without applying it generously to her face. Where she didn’t apply regularly, however, was to her neck. The difference is evident. The skin on her face is incredible, particularly for someone of such advanced age. It is quite smooth and unblemished by sunspots. The skin on her neck, however, is completely the opposite. Her neck is wrinkled and covered in sunspots and other marks of sun damage. No matter what you have read, there is one thing that this photo proves: Sunscreen does work. In the social media post below, dermatologist Dr. Cristina Psomadakis (Aka Dr. Soma) gives additional detail regarding this case.
Read: Woman shocked to discover tiny dots on skin were a sign of something worse.
The Importance of Sunscreen
According to dermatologists, wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is something we should all be doing daily. This includes in the winter and on days when it is overcast or cloudy. Dermatologists say we should be using SPF every day, because even when it’s not particularly sunny out, UV (ultraviolet) rays are still present. UV rays are the ones from the sun and also from artificial tanning beds that cause skin damage and skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, exposure to UV rays is the most common cause of skin cancer, and it is also the most preventable. As a note, skin cancer is also the most common form of cancer.
Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin. The higher the UV index, the higher the SPF you should use. Particularly to those who have more sun-sensitive skin, this is even more important. That being said, those of darker skin tones who don’t tend to burn quite so easily as those with lighter skin tones still need to use sunscreen. You can develop skin cancer even if you never burn. For those with brown or black skin, skin cancer often isn’t caught until it is much later and more deadly stages. (2)
“The most important thing is choosing a sunscreen that is labeled broad-spectrum, with an SPF of at least 15 for daily use and at least 30 for extended time outdoors.” said dermatologist Dr. Ramzi Saad. (3)
Read: Dermatologists Explain 12 Skin Cancer Symptoms That Most People Miss
Protect Your Skin
As already mentioned, dermatologists recommend that everyone wear sunscreen on all exposed skin every single day. Most suggest wearing sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. On top of that, they also recommend using sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing. Rather than sitting out in the sun, they suggest enjoying the outdoors in the shade. (4)
Beyond the damage that causes discoloration and wrinkles (which, by the way, is irreversible), protecting against sun damage could save your life. There are some who are more susceptible to skin cancer. These people include those with blue or green eyes, lighter skin or skin that burns easily, those with blond hair, or those with family members who have had skin cancer are all considered at higher risk. Dermatologists still remind us, however, that even if you have dark skin, eyes, and hair, never get sunburnt, and have no family history of the illness, you can still get skin cancer. In fact, the American Association of Dermatology’s data shows that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Again, they remind us that wearing sunscreen – even in the winter or when it’s cloudy – will go a long way in protecting your skin.
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