Your twenties (or earlier!) are when you want to establish good habits around sun protection. As the wise Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Although Ben was not referring to sunscreen (fun fact — he was referring to fire safety), one ounce of sunscreen is coincidentally the exact amount that is recommended to cover your face and body from head to toe! For reference, one ounce is equivalent to roughly a golf ball-sized amount of cream.
Trust me, you will thank yourself later if you start sun protection as early as possible. I cannot even count the number of times per day I hear “I wish I knew about sunscreen when I was younger,” or, “If only I hadn’t used baby oil or tanning beds.” Whether it is avoiding skin cancer, wrinkles, or brown spots, sun protection is seriously the best thing you can do for your skin. Our intention as dermatologists, however, is not for you to hide indoors. To enjoy the outdoors, I recommend the sun protection trifecta, comprised of:
- Sun-protective clothing/hats
- Sun-protective behaviors (avoid peak mid-day sun, seek shade)
Other sun protection tips:
- Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum (works against UVA/UVB rays), SPF 30 or greater, reapplied every 2 hours while outdoors.
- Get in the habit of applying sunscreen to your face, ears, neck and exposed chest EVERY MORNING! I’ve seen skin cancer in every crevice of the ear and behind the ear. Be thorough.
- Reapplying is key, especially if you are outside for longer periods of time (or swimming or sweating!).
- Keep in mind that side windows on cars do not adequately protect against UVA rays.
Retinoids (prescription-strength) or retinols (over-the-counter) are topical treatments derived from Vitamin A. These cream or gels have several positive effects on the skin. Effects include improved skin thickness, smoothing of the skin and fine lines, and lightening of brown spots and other pigmentation. The prescription-strength version historically has more evidence behind it (in the form of rigorous, peer-reviewed studies) for skin improvement as compared to any other topical treatment.
Some people cannot tolerate prescription-strength retinoids due to dryness or irritation; if this is the case, retinols are usually better tolerated and now come in several elegant formulations. Pregnant women should avoid all types of Vitamin A creams.
Many people ask at what age you should start treatments with neurotoxins (toxins). Toxins target the facial muscles to make them weaker/cause less movement. There are a few toxins on the market – the first and most well-known is BotoxTM. Others include DysportTM, XeominTM, and the newly approved JeuveauTM.
The perfect time to start toxin treatment is whenever you first notice fine lines at rest in your skin. Typical areas that fine lines first develop include the forehead and outer corners of the eye (crow’s feet). For most individuals, this occurs in the late 20s or early 30s. If you are very expressive or have had significant sun exposure, it can happen sooner. The effect of toxins started at the onset of fine lines will allow you to prevent deepening and progression of those lines in the future! Nowadays, new techniques allow for a more natural look after toxin treatment (as opposed to the former, more “frozen” appearance).
Dr. Diana Cohen is a Board-certified Dermatologist and sees patients in our Eagan, Vadnais Heights and Woodbury offices.