By Kristy Kurjan
After a long winter, many of us are craving a dose of sun and sand. But
before anyone hits the beach, dont forget to pack sunscreen! We sat down
with one of Northern Michigans top dermatologists, Dr. Mark Pomaranski
M.D., to discuss why he is so passionate about sunscreen usage and what we
can do to protect our skin.
Dermatology is the branch of medicine dealing with the skin and skin
diseases, including skin cancer. Dr. Pomaranski attended medical school at
the University of Michigan and completed his dermatology residency at
Henry Ford Health System. A dermatologist for over 11 years, he has
practiced for the last 6 years at Northwestern Michigan Dermatology PC in
What makes frequent sunscreen application so important?
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers,
over 2 million non-melanoma skin cancers are diagnosed every year, says
Dr. Pomaranski. Around 40% of US residents dont wear sunscreen and men
are less likely than women to use the product.
This is an alarming number considering sunscreen is a proven deterrent in
preventing skin cancer.
With education the younger generation is increasingly becoming more
regular with their use but we still need to spread awareness on sunscreen.
Bottom line, studies have found an association between sunburns and the
enhanced risk for skin cancer. The good news is everyone can still enjoy
being outdoors, but good sun protection is essential! Here is what you
need to know:
The suns rays
There are two main reasons to wear sunscreen; to prevent accelerated skin
aging and to aid in the prevention of skin cancer. Dr. Pomaranski
explains, UVB rays are the suns burning rays and the primary cause of
sunburn. Excessive exposure to both UVB and UVA can lead to development of
The American Academy of Dermatology guidelines recommends; Regardless of
skin type, a broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays),
water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least
30 should be used year-round.
What is the ideal SPF for Northern Michigan summers? Dr. Pomaranski
advises a minimum of SPF 30, especially for individuals with a significant
history of skin cancer. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before
exposure and every 2-4 hours afterward even on cloudy days. Be sure to
re-apply after swimming, intense physical activity and perspiration.
What to apply
Creams, lotions, sprays, gels; there are many forms of sunscreen
available, all of which work in similar ways to provide photoprotection.
Keep in mind, sun-rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. However, even
on a cloudy day up to 80% of the suns ultraviolet rays can reach the
skin. Be vigilant when using sunscreen near water, sand and snow because
the surface reflects the suns damaging rays and increases the risk of
sunburn. Remember sunscreens expire, so always check the label! A good
rule of thumb is to replace your sunscreen each summer.
Sun protection factor (SPF) is a products ability to deflect the suns
burning rays. A products SPF is calculated by comparing the amount of
time to develop a sunburn with or without sunscreen. Dr. Pomaranski says
that a good number to remember is 30; higher SPFs are not shown to
provide statistically significant increased protection. And, no, if you
add a SPF 15 and a SPF 25, it will not equal a SPF 40.
Sun prevention at any age is beneficial and it is never too late to start
wearing sunscreen. In addition to natural aging, UVA rays damage the skin
and rapidly accelerate the skins aging process, says Dr. Pomaranski. The
suns rays are known to lead to premature aging of the skin such as
wrinkling and age spots.
Look towards a high SPF sunscreen with provided protection to help prevent
this process. The accumulated damage of UV exposure becomes more visibly
evident as we age however the negative effects are immediate. He says, if
you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin have it
evaluated by a medical professional. Skin cancer is more treatable when
caught in the early stages.
A common misconception is the difference of ones skin type impacts their
need for sunscreen, for example, fair skinned vs. olive toned.
Melanin, the brown pigment in skin, absorbs ultraviolet radiation in an
effort to prevent damage to the skin, says Dr. Pomaranski. Its
protective in nature, so, darker skin types in theory have more protection
but still not immune to developing skin cancer. He says, no matter ones
skin type or color, sunscreen is essential to a healthy lifestyle.
For those who like to have a nice tan in the summer, is tanning okay as
long as the skin does not burn?
Tanning is what you should be avoiding, not trying to achieve! says Dr.
Pomaranski. A tan is the result of damage to the skin caused by the sun.
Tanning occurs when UV rays penetrate the epidermis, the skins outer
layer, and cause the production of melanin as a response to the injury.
Avoid tanning beds which can cause skin cancer and wrinkling, instead try
self-tanning products and continue to use sunscreen.
Education and awareness at a young age is essential to protecting the
younger generations skin from harm. UV damage is cumulative, everything
we obtained as a toddler, adolescent, young adult, adds up. In addition to
sunscreen, Dr. Pomaranski encourages protective clothing whenever possible
and to seek shade when appropriate.
Sunscreen is essential but not perfect, says Dr. Pomaranski. Seek shade
and wear protective clothing whenever possible. Long sleeve shirts,
pants, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses all help provide added protection
from the sun. The dermatologist says, typical white cotton t-shirts impart
UV protection of SPF 7, however it varies in the tightness of weave, color
and fibers in the fabric. Modern options are now available with built-in
sun protection, such as surfer shirts. This type of protective clothing is
an added advantage in the overall protection of skin damage.
Sun Smart Tips:
❂ Application: Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before
exposure and every 2-4 hours afterward even on cloudy days. A minimum SPF
30 is recommended.
❂ Use Extra Caution: Be vigilant when using sunscreen near water,
sand and snow because they reflect the suns damaging rays and increase
the risk of sunburn
❂ Re-Apply: Every 2-4 hours and after swimming, intense physical
activity, or perspiration.
❂ Check the Label: Sunscreens expire, a good rule is to replace
❂ Protective Clothing: Sunglasses, hats and clothing aid in
protecting skin from damage.
❂ Avoid Tanning Beds: If a tan is desired, self tanning products or
air brush tans are a better alternative.
❂ Get Checked: If you notice anything changing, growing or
bleeding on your skin have it evaluated by a medical professional.