Interview with an Expert + HP's Sun Picks

As part of our continuing focus on sun protection during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, this week we sit down with Dr. Nancy Samolitiis, a board certified dermatologistand co-founder of Facile Dermatology and Facile Skincare.  She graduated Summa Cum Laude from University of Kentucky College of Medicine as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha national medical honor society.  After her internship at Northwestern University and residency in dermatology at University of Utah, Dr. Samolitis moved her practice to Southern California.  For full disclosure, I have been treated by Dr. Nancy for over a decade for both medical and cosmetic dermatology issues (and could not be happier). 

Dr. Nancy Samolitis

HP:  What are the consequences of failure to protect your skin from the sun (medical and cosmetic)? Also, how much of the signs of aging that we all despise (wrinkles, blotchiness, fine lines, discoloration, textural abnormalities) are caused by the sun?

Dr. Nancy:  This is a great question! Literally almost 100% of the changes in skin like uneven pigmentation, wrinkles, dullness, loss of elasticity, etc are caused by sun damage. If you don't believe me, take a look at any skin on your body that doesn't get sun exposure on a normal basis like the underside of your arm or the buttocks which rarely exhibit these changes. Ultraviolet rays from the sun directly cause damage to the skin cell DNA and when the damage builds up over time, the skin function changes and breaks down causing the visible changes we discussed as well as possible growth of skin cancer. 

Facile Dermatology & Boutique on Melrose in Los Angeles

"The best sun protection by far is with sun protective clothing, especially clothing that has a UPF rating (similar to SPF)." – Dr. Nancy

CALLIDAE's Tech Practice Shirt with UPF 50

HP:  What are the most effective ways of protecting your skin from the sun (other than staying indoors 24/7 or wearing a Hazmat suit)?

Dr. Nancy:  The best sun protection by far is with sun protective clothing, especially clothing that has a UPF rating (similar to SPF). Clothing doesn't sweat or rub off, so you are more surely protected this way. This also applies to hats with a wide enough brim to shade the face, neck, and chest.

Sunscreen is a protective topical agent that either blocks the UV rays (mineral/physical sunscreens) or absorbs them (chemical sunscreens). The SPF rating on the product is measured by the time that the product can protect against a sunburn. A rating of 30 is usually adequate for every day and 50+ is optimal for spending longer periods of time in the sun or exposure to mid-day sun. Sunscreen does have to be reapplied pretty frequently to continue to protect optimally and this is where some people get in trouble because they think they are protected, but the protection is wearing off and the UV rays are still able to cause damage. Even if there is some tanning occurring, that means that the skin cells have reacted to the damaging UV rays.

There are also some supplements including polypodium leucotomos, vitamin D, and niacinamide (found in brands like Heliocare and Summer Ready) that can help prevent some of the damage done by the sun. These should be taken at least a few hours prior to sun exposure. 

Facile Dermatology & Boutique... Facile sunscreen coming soon!

HP:  Can you use a “body” sunscreen on your face or a “face” sunscreen on your body?

Dr. Nancy:  Yes, and good news, this is true for any products that say "face" or "body" on the label. The most important thing to look for in a sunscreen is the SPF number. Many "face" products are designed to be more cosmetically elegant or tinted in order to encourage compliance with daily application. 

Facile Core Four Daily Essentials

HP:  What’s the difference between chemical and physical sunscreens?  Is one better at sun protection?

Dr. Nancy:  I explained this in the earlier question. Physical sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide - these are inert ingredients (meaning they don't absorb into the skin or change skin cells in any way) that block UV rays directly. There are many chemical sunscreens such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, and others. These ingredients absorb UV light and convert it into heat. Statistically, chemical sunscreens perform slightly better than mineral sunscreens in SPF testing, but they all work well. Chemical sunscreens usually have to be used in combination with each other or with a physical element to achieve "broad-spectrum" sun protection which means they cover both UVA and UVB rays. 

via Facile Dermatology

HP:  Are there things you can do in your daily skincare routine that will make sunscreen more effective — e.g., exfoliation, masks, certain types of cleansers?

Dr. Nancy:  You can't necessarily do anything to your skin to make sunscreen more effective per se, but you can do a lot of things to repair and reverse the damage. Antioxidants, when applied in the AM along with sunscreen, can reduce the production of free radicals which are damaging to the skin. Niacinamide, taken orally and used topically, can mitigate some of the damging effects. Retinoids are the most well known to actually reverse even pre-cancerous changes in the skin when used regularly; it's really just a nice side effect that they boost growth of collagen and make skin look firmer and tighter. 

HP:  Since Facile doesn’t make sunscreen, what are your go-to brands?

Dr. Nancy:  Favorite brands are: EltaMD, ISDIN, Cerave, and Neutrogena. (Facile sunscreen coming soon!) 

HP:  Even if we abide by best practices, it seems some sun damage is inevitable for those of us who lead active lives (and certainly for the equestrians and other outdoor athletes who read our blog).  What are some things we can do to deal with that inevitable sun and other environmental damage our skin endures?  Are there products that can be helpful for more acute situations — accidental sunburn when you’re outside longer than expected?

Dr. Nancy:  That is absolutely true, so luckily, we have lots of options. There are several types of skin rejuvenating procedures including microneedling, laser resurfacing and chemical peels of various types. All of these treatments involve producing a controlled wound in the skin that forces our immune cells to repair damage, grow new skin cells, stimulate production of collagen. We have learned that when these procedures are repeated on a regular basis, they not only make skin look better, but actually reduce the risk of skin cancer in the treated areas by a significant margin. The damage from an accidental sunburn can be mitigated to some degree with the supplements mentioned above as well as topical antioxidants like vitamin C and oral anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. 

HP's SUN PROTECTION PICKS: Getting in the sun protection groove is easier with the right products.

1. The Hannah – Not surprisingly, my favorite neck/chest coverage.   |  2. Isdin amd Tizo Tinted SPF 40 – Both provide highly effective skin protection without feeling greasy or heavy.   | 3. Dr. Nancy Samolitis and her amazing dermatology spa “FACILE” – At least twice yearly visits for either microneedling or laser resurfacing.  | 4. Biafine Emulsion – While I use this product (affectionately referred to as "miracle cream") every night, I have also found it very effective for the occasional sunburn.  |  5. Janessa Leone Felix Bucket – Love this stylish coverage option.  |   6. CALLIDAE Evil Eye cap – Favorite coverage for sportier occasions.  |  7. Love Shack Fancy Triana Sunglasses – My fun sunnies!  | 8. Roeckl Riding Gloves – Wish I had starting protecting my hands from the sun a LOT earlier.  Keep these comfy riding gloves in your car to wear while driving, hiking, or riding.