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Keep Your Skin Safe Florida: Dr. Ioannides Answers Burning Sun Exposure Questions -OPINION

As we move into summer and the Sunshine State begins heating up again, it is exciting to consider all of the other outdoor activities such as trips to the beach, golf, and fishing excursions that we can participate in.

However, it is important to be mindful that while clear skies and sunshine bring with them warm memories, any and all activities done without sun protection can damage your skin, causing dark spots, wrinkles, and at its worst skin cancer.

There is no single method of sun defense that will result in perfect protection from sun exposure. That is why it is important to be comprehensive in your approach, adapting as many methods as possible. Tim Ioannides owns a dermatological practice specializing in the treatment of skin cancer, with five locations in the Treasure Coast area of Florida.

Below, he assists in answering some of the common questions regarding sun exposure and skin cancer defense.

How does the sun cause skin damage?

Whenever you get a sunburn, it is actually your body sensing UV rays damaging the DNA in its cells. It reacts by flooding the exposed area with blood to help with the healing process, causing the characteristic red skin and sometimes painful inflammation. This damage can also cause the DNA to mutate, allowing cells to acquire the ability to avoid dying, the result of which is skin cancer.

There are two types of UV rays that have the ability to reach the earth’s surface: UVB rays, which are the primary cause of skin reddening and sunburn, and UVA rays, which have longer wavelengths and therefore penetrate deeper into the skin, contributing to premature wrinkles and age spots. Both rays increase the risk of developing cancer when they come in contact with your skin.

Can the sun damage your skin indirectly? 

The short answer here is yes. Contrary to popular belief, sun exposure on a cloudy day can still cause sun damage, as up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate clouds and come in contact with your skin, so even on days where there are clouds in the sky it is still important to protect your skin accordingly.

On days where the sun is shining brightly, one way you can avoid harsh sun exposure is to seek the shade. The peak hours of sun intensity are between 10A and 4P, and during these times taking refuge in the shade whenever possible is a simple and effective way to prevent harmful UV rays from damaging your skin.

“Clothing can also actually provide an effective barrier from UV rays. In some ways it could even be considered more effective than sunscreen, as it is consistent in its coverage and doesn’t wear away with time,” said Ioannides.

With so many sunscreen brands, dispenser methods, and SPFs, how do you know which one to choose? 

The bottom line is there isn’t one be-all-end-all sunscreen that will provide the best protection. Selecting the sunscreen or sunscreens that work for you will often come down to trial and error, but the most important factor to remember is to apply it liberally and often. That being said, here are some explanations for two of the most common factors to consider:


SPF stands for sunlight protection factor, and the number that accompanies it denotes the length of time it would take for the sun to redden your skin compared with the amount of time without sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and broad-spectrum protection. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.


Sticks, sprays, lotions, gels — with all of the different sunscreen applicators available on the market today, the options can seem overwhelming. While arguments can be made for any to be “the best,” the most important thing to remember is proper application. You should be liberally applying the sunscreen (one ounce or two tablespoons for your whole body) fifteen minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying at least every two hours.

Early Detection Starts with You 

Ioannides says “even when applying all of these methods, there is no guarantee for perfect sun exposure prevention. Fortunately, skin cancers caught and treated early are often highly curable.”

That is why it’s important to do a check from head to toe every month. When examining yourself, be on the lookout for anything new, changing, or unusual, but in particular keep an eye on growths, moles, spots, and open sores. You should also plan on seeing a dermatologist annually, or even more frequently if you are at a higher risk.

Follow Tim Ioannides on Twitter and ThriveGlobal.

Dr. Tim Ioannides

Author Bio: Dr. Tim Ioannides is the founder of Treasure Coast Dermatology, a dermatology practice with five locations in eastern Florida. He earned his medical degree from the University of Miami School of Medicine and is board-certified in dermatology by the American Board of Dermatology.


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