Soak Up The Sun…Screen

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Local physician offers summer health tips for your skin

Sunscreen is essential to enjoying the summer safely. (CC0 1.0)

Summertime means barbecue parties in the backyard and picnics at the beach, swimming at the pool and strolling through the park. But with these seasonal pleasures come health perils like sunburn, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Magdalena Swierczewski, MD, Director of Aesthetics and Integrative Medicine Specialist at HealthBridge Platinum Concierge in Great Neck, said to steer clear of the sun as much as possible, but offered tips for how to minimize health problems while soaking up rays and sipping rosé.

“A day at the beach is advisable if you protect yourself,” she said.

Like most dermatologists, she recommends applying a sunscreen of at least SPF30 for those planning to spend more than 20 minutes at the beach. Swierczewski noted that lower SPF values provide only a “smidgen of protection,” and that it is necessary to reapply often, depending on your product’s instructions—and more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming. SPF hair care products, she added, can prevent your hair from getting fried by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Solar UV exposure causes skin aging and is a risk factor for most skin cancers. However, Swierczewski, who is board-certified in both internal and aesthetic/anti-aging medicine, identified several benefits of sunlight.

According to Swierczewski, most people who live on the east coast are deficient in vitamin D, which our bodies synthesize from sunlight. Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium into our bones and teeth and promotes healthy hair and skin.

A day at the beach is also good, she said, for our moods as well as our circadian rhythms, the internal processes that regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

Magdalena Swierczewski, MD

Swierczewski suspects, however, that many beachgoers neglect to wear sunglasses that offer protection against UV rays, which can damage the eye’s retina.

Our ozone layer’s depletion from industrial chemicals and other environmental changes, Swierczewski said, only amplify the sun’s carcinogenic impact.

“There’s more exposure to harmful rays, so it’s even more important to protect ourselves properly,” she said.

Accordingly, Swierczewski suggests seeing your dermatologist if a mole changes or grows over time or has asymmetry, irregular borders or a variety of colors, as these can be early signs of melanoma. She also endorsed including vitamin C serum in your skin care regimen, which not only helps even skin tone but also wields antioxidant properties. Antioxidants fight off the effects of free radicals—unstable molecules that cause cellular damage and may play a role in aging and cancer development.

Many believe that sunburn in childhood greatly increases the likelihood of having skin cancer later in life. Infants and younger children in particular, Swierczewski said, should keep away from the sun and wear long sleeves if possible.

In addition, she explained, senior citizens are particularly prone to health disorders during the summer because heat often exacerbates cardiovascular issues.

“If you have an elderly neighbor and it’s particularly hot that day, it’s always nice to check in on them and make sure that their air conditioner is working and that they have everything they need,” she said.

Swierczewski also emphasized the importance of adequate hydration, supporting the 8×8 rule, which states that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day—or more if you’re sweating, she stressed.

“Always have some water with you when you’re traveling in the car,” she added.

When you’re not trapped on the highway, you might attend parties and weddings or participate in other outdoor events and activities where alcohol is served. If so, make sure to have a glass of water between each boozy beverage, Swierczewski advised, along with a multivitamin the next day to replenish lost electrolytes.

Overall, Swierczewski believes that if you take certain precautions, you can avoid health hazards and still enjoy the summer. You don’t need to lock yourself indoors to stay safe on staycation.

“There are very positive things that you can get from being out in the sun,” she said. “But you have to do it wisely.”

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