Beat the Heat

By April Howell, Pharm.D. Candidate for LIVING WELL Magazine

As many young women get excited for summer and swimsuit season, they may try to get a head start on that golden bronze tan. I know when I was a teenager I wanted to have that perfect, even tan for big events at school and all summer. Tanning beds are a quick and convenient way to accomplish this, but I didn’t think about the consequences of tanning at the time. As we’ve learned more regarding the dangers of tanning beds and sun exposure, more and more people are concerned and looking for ways to reduce the damage done to their skin over the years.

There are three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can cause damage to the skin: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC is filtered by the ozone layer, but can be a problem in areas of the world with ozone deterioration, such as Australia. UVA and UVB are more concerning and their damage is based on factors such as season, time of day, cloud cover, and distance from the equator. UVA can also permeate deeper into the skin than the other types of UV radiation. Damage caused by sun exposure is due to changes in DNA, which may result in sunburn, aging, wrinkles, dark spots, or skin cancer, and is associated with the different types of UV radiation.

• Darkening of the skin• Aging• Wrinkles• Recently found to be associated with skin cancer • Sunburn• Skin cancer • Causes no biological harm if the ozone filter is sufficient



There are several types of skin cancer due to UV exposure and they have different characteristics and prognoses.

   Basal Cell Carcinoma • Abnormal growth of basal cells (line the deepest area of the epidermis)• Most common form of skin cancer• Metastases are not common• Treatment is typically surgery
   Squamous Cell Carcinoma • Abnormal growth of squamous cells (make up most of the epidermis)• Second most common form of skin cancer• Metastases are rare, but can be fatal• Treatment is typically surgery


• Produced in the melanocytes found in the basal layer of the epidermis• Most dangerous form of skin cancer• Incidence increases with age• Risk increases as number of sunburns increase

• Survival rate dependent on early diagnosis 

The ABCs can help you recognize signs of possible skin cancer.

A – Asymmetry

B – Border (irregular)

C – Color (changes or differing shades)

D – Diameter (larger than the size of a pencil eraser)

E – Evolving (spot on skin begins to change)

If a spot on the skin changes or grows according to these signs, it’s recommended to schedule an appointment to have your skin evaluated by a doctor for any abnormalities.

Remember, the earlier the diagnosis, the better!

There are many ways and agents to aid in avoiding skin damage due to sun exposure. Avoid unnecessary use of tanning beds. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more people develop skin cancer from tanning than lung cancer from smoking. Cover exposed areas of skin while participating in outdoor activities. Daily sunscreen use can reduce the risk of sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancer if used properly. Physical sunscreens contain either zinc oxide or titanium oxide and are a good choice for sensitive skin; however, these products appear white when applied to the skin. Chemical sunscreens, which are more commonly used, contain ingredients such as avobenzone, cinoxate, dioxybenzone, homosalate, and octinoxate, and come in a range of sun protection factors (SPFs). An SPF of at least 30 is recommended to provide adequate protection. Chemical sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes prior to activity in the sun and should usually be reapplied every two hours. Water resistant sunscreen need to be applied more often if you are participating in activities in the water; check the bottle for the time, which is usually between 40 and 80 minutes.

For those wanting natural products to add to their regimen, herbal agents are becoming a popular area of research in preventing sun damage. Free radicals participate in causing skin damage, and antioxidants work to protect cells from free radicals and stimulate skin to repair itself. Antioxidants can be found in many foods and plants such as strawberries, apples, pomegranates, cranberries, grapes, peanuts, onions, evening primrose, sunflowers, milk thistle, and many others. They are thought to inhibit DNA mutation, scavenge for free radicals, reduce inflammation, and work as anti-tumor agents. Topical vitamin E is also a free radical scavenger. Many people have used aloe vera for its cooling effects on sunburns, but it may also act as a preventative if used before and during sun exposure. Some of these antioxidants can be found in certain sunscreen products. Helioplex is a type of broad-spectrum sunscreen that also includes antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E.

With all of the negative effects caused by the sun, keep in mind there are beneficial effects from sun exposure as well. Vitamin D is a nutrient that can be obtained through sun exposure and is needed to increase calcium absorption and hormone retention; it may also treat/prevent osteoporosis, cancer, critical illnesses, fatigue, and others. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. As a result, vitamin D supplementation is a great option to decrease your risk without subjecting yourself to the negative effects that come with sun exposure. Texas Star Pharmacy carries pharmaceutical grade vitamin D, which is considered the highest quality available and is needed to achieve healthy levels.

As you can see there are many agents to help in prevention, but what if you have been tanning for years, haven’t been diligent in wearing sunscreen, or have had several sunburns during your life?

If you think that you have damaged skin issues that need to be addressed, please call Texas Star Pharmacy at 972-519-8475 and make an appointment with Christina or Donna to look at your options for renewal.