The Easter holidays often mean sand and sun for many Belizeans who head to the beaches. If your weekend includes a trip to the beaches or if you will be engaged in other outdoor activities, tonight we offer expert advice to help you avoid or minimize damage associated with exposure to the sun.  Dermatologist Doctor Jorge Lopez also has tips on home remedies that will help you keep your skin in good shape. This week’s Healthy Living has a good dose of preventative advice on how to have outdoor fun but avoid damage from the sun.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja, Dermatologist

“We should be out of the sun unprotected or protected for the least possible time.”

Marleni Cuellar reporting

Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Unlike the internal organs, the skin, that serves as the body’s protective shield is exposed to many damaging environments. One main culprit is the sun. Dermatologist Doctor Jorge Lopez, says it is often difficult for patients to understand just how damaging sun exposure can be to outer skin.

Jorge Lopez Granja

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“It is important for us to educate our patients that sunlight UV radiation is something you can’t to avoid as much as possible. It’s not a matter of becoming a vampire. There are times in the days that it is desirable for them be outdoors before nine in the morning and after four in the evening. The reason for that is that between ten and four or between ten and two the UVB radiation which is the one that is responsible for sunburn is the highest. You can use protective clothing, sunscreen and a hat. That would be the ideal. What happens with sunlight is that it has ultraviolet radiation which has an impact in the cells of your skin, the more sunlight you get the more damage those cells will also get.”

The body does have self repair mechanisms to fix damaged cells, but it does take some time. Repeated exposure then, causes even greater damage.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“There are studies that show that once you get sunburn you are doubling the chances of you having a skin cancer later in life. If you overdoing that then those defense mechanisms won’t help you anymore and then is when you start talking about skin cancer – mutations in you cells would give the origin to skin cancer. You damage your skin, you age younger your skin will sag it will get thicker you’ll get blemishes blotches so all of the things you don’t want can happen.”

Every day, Dr. Lopez sees cases that are a result of sun damage; as sun exposure will also worsen other skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. The problem is that some people simply are not convinced of the potential threats of the sun.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“A white person has an SPF of one maybe and dark skinned person will have an SPF of seven. That’s the protection your skin confers you but that is ultimately not enough no matter how dark you are no matter if you are born in the tropics. One of the most common and most dangerous that I’ve heard my patients tell me is yes; I do use sunscreen everyday in the mornings. Whenever you use sunscreen you only use it for one time; it’s basically like you’re not using anything.”

Another important reminder is that it is best to re-apply sunscreen every two hours for maximum effectiveness and use no less than SPF thirty. Another mistake people make- according to Dr Lopez -

Is how much sunscreen to use, the recommendation is about a full shot glass for the area being covered.  If you’ve failed to protect your skin and have been a victim to the sun, then Dr Lopez has some advice about home remedies.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“Aloe vera, I find that a lot of people have a lot of faith in aloe vera. There are some evidence that points out that aloe vera could actually help for things like psoriasis. But for sunburn there is not enough data up to date. What could happen is if you’re allergic is it will just make it much worse. It’s better if you don’t try anything new – especially if you haven’t tried it before on your healthy skin. Whenever you have a serious sunburn what you could do is fill up your tub, you sprinkle maybe a cup or so of baking soda and then you soak your skin for no longer than ten/fifteen minutes. If you do that it actually makes your skin dryer and more painful.”

Do not rinse off; leave it on. These are general rules for any home remedy for sunburn whether it be a soak in baking soda, apple cider vinegar or oatmeal, never use for longer than ten to fifteen minutes. The same applies for cold compresses.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“Another thing that people like is potato, you grab several potatoes you cut them in small pieces throw them in the blender make a paste a little bit more liquid hard and then you apply on the affected area and leave it there until it’s dry. Then you take a quick shower. NO soap – if you must use soap then must be mild.”

Next step is to moisturize. Dr. Lopez recommends chilling the moisturizer for added comfort. Drink a lot of water to rehydrate and assist in cell repair as well.

Channel 5