The skin is the body’s largest organ and a vital protector against pathogens. During the summer months it is at its most vulnerable.
On the PULSE sat down with nurse practitioner Holly Shadle, of UPMC Dermatology, to discuss the importance of skin health and tips for skin care over the summer and year round.
“People don’t think about sitting in your car everyday where the sun’s beating down on you constantly. Guys that are a little bit balding on the top, they have to be careful, we see a lot of cancer or precancerous spots from sun damage there.,” Shadle said. “You don’t think about that everyday sun exposure that really does lead to the long-term damage just as much, if not more, than most of your burns.”
Q. How important is skin health?
A. “Skin Health is actually really important, I think what people don’t realize this skin is actually the largest organ in the body, and it’s responsible for a lot of things that helps to protect your body from like pathogens and from getting damaged it helps with temperature control and sensation and touch, but it also helps to maintain moisture and prevent dehydration. So it really is important that we take really good care of it because it’s kind of like our outward armor to protect the rest of our body.”
Q. What are the biggest threats to your skin?
A. “Sun is one of the biggest things that comes to mind. You definitely have to wear SPF when you’re outside, we recommend at least 30 Plus. You don’t really have to get anything higher than that but you don’t want to really get anything lower than that either. So that’s really important to kind of maintain your skin and prevent some damage because that can lead to things like skin cancer and also increased things like aging and decrease the moisture in your skin.
There’s other things that people don’t think about as well like I mean, rashes, things like eczema can kind of pop up in the summer, so it’s really important to kind of make sure that you’re moisturizing your skin on a regular basis. Simple things like when you get out of the pool or when you get out of the shower instead of rubbing your arms you want to kind of pat them dry more.
Also, make sure that you’re moisturizing at least once a day, especially after showering. All that can be really helpful and we honestly recommend to our patients using products that are free and clear of any sort of fragrances or additive ingredients and the good thing is now they make those and a lot of like easy to get products like tide and gain and things like that so it really is simple, but all those can kind of help with your daily skin health.”
Q. Should skin health be a year-round practice?
A. “Skin health is important all year round and I think that’s important to realize even simple things like sunblock in the winter for your face especially people forget about that, but we recommend just a daily moisturizer with SPF for your face on a regular basis, and simple things like moisturizing daily especially after shower and trying those free and clear products up and all the time thing.”
Q. Does age affect your skin?
A. “Your skin definitely changes as you age, as you get older your skin tends to get a little bit thinner, it loses the elasticity, it loses some of the moisture and so you remember it’s kind of like the barrier and the protector of our body.
And so as you get older you have to use extra caution you have to make sure you’re definitely using sunscreen you definitely have to use those moisturizers. And simple things like Tide detergent that some people may have used their entire life, as your skin changes they might become more irritating for you, so you really might have to consider switching to more sensitive products.
The other thing we find is a lot of people use things like ivory or dial soap which are great soaps, but as your skin changes sometimes those become too harsh and switching to more sensitive soaps like Dove or something like that can be helpful as well.”
Q. How should people treat acne or eczema?
A. “Acne is another thing I think is important to point out, especially with summer, with sweat and increased activity and sunblock and all those extra things that we’re putting on that can increase acne.
With that, one of the best things that you can do on a regular basis that kind of helps curtail that or prevent that, is just wash your face once daily, with a good face wash something that’s hypoallergenic and mild, not a lot of fragrances, and then follow that up by a good moisturizer that can really help kind of prevent acne. And then also simple things like after you have been at the gym or you have been outside just kind of washing your face. Those can all be helpful as well and you want to look for products that say their dermatologist recommended and non acne forming or non comedogenic, those are important things to look for as well.
Eczema can be a little bit more tricky. Not everybody has that but certainly a lot of people do. It really is just the kind of a chronic dry skin condition and some of those other things that we talked about can certainly help to prevent that or at least manage it for those that have it.”
Q. Is there a connection between skin health and diet?
A. “You know, there are some people that have certain things like gluten sensitivities and things like that but for the most part, no I think that’s, I mean there’s a lot of that that is a misconception. For some people, certainly there are some dietary issues or allergies that are involved, but for a lot of people, one of the best things that you can do is just kind of wash and moisturize your face on a daily basis. A lot of times making major changes to your diet with things like sugar gluten don’t really make a big difference.”
Q. Does location have an impact on skin health?
A. “It definitely does. I mean you think about in this area we have a lot of woods, we have a lot of hiking, kayaking, people are really active and they tend to get out a lot more. With that you have to keep in mind we’re certainly in the area where you see a lot of poison ivy, poison sumac poison oak, so you definitely have to be careful with those.
The other thing that’s huge in this area right now unfortunately is ticks, and they’re deer ticks so I mean they are associated with things like Lyme Disease and a lot of other tick borne illnesses. So with both of those the poison ivy and poison sumac and poison oak and the ticks. One of the best things that you can do is when you’re out in the woods route hiking. Honestly I know it’s hot, but if you wear longer thinner pants that are kind of made for that as well as longer shorts that can certainly help prevent it.
And also just some bug spray. And the other thing too is you want to make sure that you’re really showering and washing your clothes well after you are out on a hike, because that chemical that’s on the oil really can carry pretty easily so you want to make sure that you get rid of that as fast as possible.”
Q. What are the best methods to prevent skin cancer?
A. “First we go back to sunscreen and being careful in the sun, wearing hats, wearing sunglasses, making sure you’re putting the SPF on your face in your body on a regular basis. The best way to kind of deal with skin cancer is to prevent it in the beginning. But the other thing kind of once you get past that a lot of the things that we see are kind of things that creep up from old sun damage. You know when we’re younger, we don’t think about that stuff as much but as we age we start to kind of see the damage that the sun has done in our skin over the years.
So you want to start to look for any kind of spots that seem like they’re not getting better if you have like a scabby area that seems like it’s been there for a while or you thought it maybe was a pimple but it’s not going away, and it kind of flakes off and bleeds sometimes but then comes back and it never really heals, that’s actually a sign of a precancerous spot or possibly even an early skin cancer. So if you have any things like that you definitely want to get them checked out by your family doctor or definitely by your dermatologist.
The other thing is to look at your moles and spots anything that seems to be changing color or changing shape or increasing in size, or if it changes and starts to become itchy or bleed or anything like that. Those are definitely things that you want to point out to your provider as well because those could be signs of something like melanoma.”
Q. What are the different degrees of sunburn?
A. “I mean, there are varying degrees of sunburn, for sure. I mean, you kind of have a mild sunburn, sometimes it doesn’t even peel. One of the best things you can do is use aloe or moisturizing lotion.
But sunburn can actually get very severe and you can get second and third degree burns that sometimes you have to treat them a little bit more. So if you ever have a sunburn that’s really blistering or you develop other symptoms like fever or signs of infection or anything like that, that’s certainly something that you might want to talk to your doctor about or be seen for because that could be a sign of something more serious like sun poisoning, and also it depends on how fair your skin is.
Certainly people that have more fair skin. We usually say light hair, light eyes, fair skin. You have to definitely be more careful and more cautious than somebody that maybe would have a darker skin and darker eyes, because they’re not quite as sensitive so those are definitely things to look for as well. And honestly, a couple of bad sunburns can really cause major issues down the road so the best you can do to prevent those sunburns in the beginning, the better off you’ll be in the long term.”