Most of us are interested in knowing what we can do to keep our skin looking beautiful for life. A big part of achieving this is preventing and reversing UV damage caused by sun exposure (tanning beds in high school anyone?). I’ve researched the impact of UV damage on skin, and what we can do to prevent it at length, but I still had some questions. I was lucky enough to snag an interview with world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Verallo-Rowell to find out exactly how to prevent and reverse UV skin damage, as well as clear up some confusion on daily UV exposure and whether people with dark skin need to wear sunscreen.
Dr. Verallo-Rowell has performed over 30 clinical studies in the field of dermatology, and has been perfecting her coconut oil inspired skin care line, VMV Hypoallergenics, since 1979. Check out my post here for an overview of the line.
Two Things You Can Do Now For Beautiful Skin
You’ve done an impressive amount for the field of dermatology, and I am in awe of your experience. What are the top one or two things that you would tell young people today with respect to taking care of their skin?
1) Start a healthy lifestyle – today, if you haven’t yet:
• Use a daily sunscreen.
• Exercise. Your whole body and your skin will benefit.
• Eat whole, healthy foods. Avoid processed, fast foods to avoid the slow burn of inflammation that leads to many diseases.
• Sleep 7-8 hours, your brain needs it.
• Avoid (or use very little) alcohol;and avoid drugs and cigarettes.
• Meditate or pray according to your own beliefs, mindfulness during your day or night should be part of your lifestyle too.
2) Study and know yourself- pay attention to what you’re prone to:
• Gaining weight, diabetes, hypertension – follow the lifestyle above and stick to it.
• Depression – make a gratitude journal. You’ll be surprised how by being thankful, you realize how lucky you are.
• Environmental and work-related problems: know them and deal with them – dry skin, skin barrier challenges, etc.
• Allergies – recognize why and to what.
• Infections – treat them immediately: cavities, sinusitis, sore throats, urinary infections, fungal infectious etc.
Questions about UV damage:
Research about the importance of UV protection is on the news and in every women’s magazine, but I see many people ignoring it. In your experience, what does it take to get people to start wearing UV protection daily?
- Brain scan studies show that tanning and sunbathing are forms of addiction and should therefore be treated as such. Not with drugs but by helping people develop other healthy habits that have gratifying results. Not about skin cancer because people want results NOW. So I tell them that by using a daily sunscreen their skin will look flawless – the sunscreens I give them make their skin look pore-less – these sunscreens are the ones with zinc and titanium. I tell them their sunscreen will make their skin imperfections disappear – the sunscreens I give them have pigment that make the imperfections disappear just about overnight.
Are there other types of light besides UVA and UVB rays that we’re exposed to on a daily basis that can age us?
- YES! Visible light, and even infrared energy and the heat it produces. Many studies now show how these energies age us, and the studies are quite convincing. They induce skin damage that lead to aging changes that can actually lead to skin cancer over time.
If someone in their late 20’s or early 30’s is starting to see the effects of sun damage from tanning as a teenager, is there any way to truly reverse it?
• Yes. The gold standard topical for this is retinoid acid and retinol which are derivatives of Vitamin A (though not Vitamin A itself)
• Plus drinking niacinamide daily; freshly made turmeric drinks, green tea – they also help reverse those changes.
Does incidental daily exposure to UV rays (from a window, or being outside for a minute or two) increase the rate of aging in people with darker colored skin?
• Probably not right away, but over time, and at a much later age incidental exposure adds up for darker skin types. So in my patients with darker skin I do say, even when they “hide” from the sun, to use a sunscreen.
• The reason: for these darker skin types, one problem is that their quality of life can be effected from having skin discolorations. They are prone to these with indoor lights and photosensitivity, and to chemicals they are exposed to in the environment or in their products like fragrances, rubber, and garlic. I am about to finish a paper on this which I know people will want to be guided by.
May people in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s are doing “preventative botox”, in order to prevent future wrinkles. What are your thoughts on this?
• I believe in early treatments but not preventive botox treatments.
What do you think is the most common myth about the sun, and using UV protection?
• That you won’t need a daily sunscreen if you don’t go outdoors that much anyway. Daily sunscreen is not just for outdoor sun but for light and heat indoors and outdoors.
Is SPF 30 strong enough to use on a daily basis, if you are only outside for a few minutes?
• Yes. SPF 30 protects you from UV, from the amount you are exposed to outside and from that which is present in indoor lights. But if you are mostly indoors you need to use a sun/light screen to protect you from longer UV rays and visible light – for this I recommend sunscreens with higher amounts of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide
• Also, people need to know that in sunscreen testing, they use 2mg per cm2 of skin. In real life application, most people tend to use much less — so they end up with a much smaller amount of the SPF, which could be ¼ of the SPF protection.
I noticed that the VMV sun care line includes the Armada lip balm with 60+ sun protection. I always forget SPF on my lips. What are the first signs of UV related aging on the lips, and is there anything we can do to reverse it?
• Signs of UV damage, or that from visible light on the lips are dry skin, a rough feeling, and the need for lip balm to feel good. Then, looks flat, thinner, discolored. Much later, lips become wrinkled, irregular in color, have scaly spots that one can peel off – these may be early skin cancer.
• To reverse these signs, apply a barrier repair balm with Virgin Coconut Oil as an ingredient, and then apply another lip balm with an SPF protection factor.
Dr. Verallo-Rowell, thank you so much for your time and these valuable insights. Learn more about Dr. Verall-Rowell’s dermatological research here, about the VMV line here. As a I mentioned in my last post, where I wrote about the coconut oil inspired facial that I experienced at Hayes Valley Med Spa, I’ve been using VMV’s “Know-It-Oil” coconut oil under my Retin-A and it has made a huge difference in removing skin dryness.
Did this post make you think any differently about your skin care routine?