Don’t underestimate your skin health, the risks are high and the complications unpleasantArticle
16. 09. 2020 Dermatovenerology
Dermatovenerologist Dr. Helena Michalíková was a host on Radio Z. Read the most interesting highlights.
There’s no issue more relevant than taking care of your skin during summer days. Ideally, you would start preparing your skin for the harsh summer conditions prior to the summer season, but it’s never too late to start. Everything depends on what kind of damage the skin had to endure during the summer, whether there are acute problems such as blistering and peeling skin, or whether there’s chronic damage due to prolonged sun exposure.
Some factors, such as high altitudes and white sand (the surface of the sand can reflect more UV than the surface of water) as well as large areas of snow, increase the strength of UV radiation, and should be kept in mind.
Your phototype- or the colour of your skin, plays an important role when choosing the sun protective factor (SPF) of your sunscreen. Europeans with mildly pigmented skin tend to be a phototype number three (for example, I am a phototype 2 because I have fair skin, blue eyes and blond hair.) The most at risk are the so-called Celtic types, or phototype 1; people with freckles, red hair, light porcelain skin are at very high risk when exposed to UV and will likely burn in a few minutes.
This diversity in skin types means that having a universal SPF recommendation is near impossible, however in our weather conditions I would recommend a sunscreen with a minimal factor of 30 as this should be sufficient for most of the population. If you are by the sea, it wouldn’t hurt to opt for a higher factor (50+), especially in the first couple of days you are exposed to the sun.
Here at Canadian Medical we encounter skin damage quite commonly, mostly from sunbathing when our patients fall asleep in the sun. However, there isn’t much that we can do for the skin when it is sunburnt, so we recommend applying various cooling gels, foams, solutions, and milks to relieve from the burning and discomfort. A more natural relief may come in the form of yoghurt, which cools the affected area and has a pleasant texture. I would not recommend putting any oily/greasy solutions on burnt skin.
The most at risk areas of your body are also the most exposed parts; your face, the upper parts of your earlobes, the scalp in case of a short haircut or baldness, the shoulders, forearms, backs of the hands as well as the lower legs and the insteps of the foot. The sun falls onto the insteps directly from above and people often forget to protect that part of their body, so it is often the most affected.
After prolonged sun exposure, some people often get a rash on their skin which is often referred to as a “sun allergy”, however only rarely is it actually a sun allergy. In most cases, the rash is caused by a so-called polymorphic light eruption, which causes redness, a rash and is usually quite itchy and annoying. It can be prevented by using a sunscreen with a factor of 50+, wearing protective clothing and exposing the skin to the sun very slowly. Polymorphic light eruption often occurs during the first couple of days by the sea when the skin is exposed to UV for the first time after a long winter. We can alleviate the symptoms with antihistamines, anti-allergic tablets or ointments with corticoids, however these can only be obtained with a prescription from a doctor. This skin condition isn’t life threatening and shouldn’t be a big cause for concern, but it can be rather unpleasant and add an annoyance to your holiday plans.
The quickest relief for a sunburn is to cool the area and to take some antihistamines (anti-allergy pills) which are available over the counter at a pharmacy.
If our skin is repeatedly exposed to sunlight it can suffer chronic damage. If the sunburnt area is scratched, an infection and permanent scarring can occur. However if the burnt skin peels off naturally, there should be no scarring, however some permanent pigment changes may occur in the affected areas.
It doesn’t make a difference if you make an appointment with your dermatologist before or after the summer months, the most important thing is that you are seen by a skin specialist at least once a year. If you are at increased risk for one reason or another, it is important to be examined more regularly.
Another important topic to discuss are skin cancers. The most serious of skin cancers is often referred to as a melanoma which develops from pigment producing cells, or the cells that create common freckles/moles. However there are also other skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma or spinalioma which are significantly more common than melanomas but are also thankfully far less dangerous. They are however very difficult to spot with a normal eye because they mimic common manifestations of the skin that can also be caused by sun exposure, age or other skin diseases that would usually not signify a malignancy. Often, they manifest on the skin in solitude in the form of flaking, redness, or a raised area.
It is assuring to know that a visit to your dermatologist is painless, and therefore there should be no reason to be scared of regular check-ups. The minor surgical procedures that sometimes need to be undergone as prevention or treatment can cause mild discomfort, however you can be assured that you are in the best hands at Canadian Medical.
During a dermatological examination, we first visually scan the patient and then use a dermatoscope to enlarge individual sections of the skin, because even for a specialist it’s not easy to distinguish dangerous manifestations of the skin from the more benign ones with the naked eye. If there are any concerns, then the first line of treatment is usually a minor surgical procedure.