For many cancers the exact cause remains a mystery.. But not skin cancer. We know that UV rays are the primary causative agents behind skin cancers, wrinkles, sunburn, premature ageing, and a host of other skin-health related conditions.
Statistically, about 95% of skin cancers are totally preventable. Nonetheless, there’s an increasing prevalence of skin cancer in Australia (and even globally) today.
When we know better, we do better, that’s exactly why we asked Sam Sheehan of Suncayr about UV rays and how we can better protect our skin.
Sam Sheehan is the Managing Director of Suncayr Australia– a company dedicated to giving “you the UV awareness that you need to safely enjoy every day you spend outside.” Here, are snippets of wisdom he shared in his interview with us… including how Suncayr is helping to simplify sun safety.
What is UV
UV rays or Ultraviolet rays are the radiation from the sun. Sam said, “exposure or overexposure to UV radiation is a major risk factor for nearly all skin cancers”. Unfortunately, UV rays are inescapable. Since they penetrate windows, you’d have to be indoors, in a windowless room, 24/7 to completely avoid them. This, of course, isn’t feasible.
There are three types of UV;
UVA rays. Termed “ageing rays” these are the rays that cause long-term skin damage by breaking down collagen fibres and lead to premature ageing.
UVB rays. Also known as “burning rays”, these rays are the culprit of sunburn and are the main cause of most forms of skin cancer. The strength of UVB rays varies at different times throughout the year.
UVC rays. These are the most harmful of all 3 forms of UV rays. Thanks to Earth’s ozone layer, they don’t reach us. And that, dear earthling, is why we need to protect our ozone!
How sunscreens work
Sunscreens protect us from the damaging effects of the sun. Although they’ve been so-called a second line of defence, they remain a critically important line of defence. Sunscreens are chemically composed of organic compounds and inorganic compounds as two of its main base ingredients.
The inorganic compounds— typically Zinc oxide or Titanium oxide, reflect UV rays away from the body. On the other hand, the organic compounds— usually avobenzone or oxybenzone— absorbs the UV rays by bonding chemically with UV rays. Consequently, the intermolecular attraction in the sunscreen is broken down. This is why skin specialists advise that you reapply sunscreen frequently—depending upon the activity being carried out and the length of your exposure to the sun.
No sunscreen can protect from 100% of UV rays
It’s important to keep in mind that sunscreens aren’t foolproof. According to the Mayo Clinic, there isn’t one sunscreen that blocks 100% of UV rays. So our concept of UV protection must go beyond applying sunscreen. Staying in the shade, wearing hats, sunglasses, and clothing that fully cover our skin—all of these acts make us less vulnerable.
The right amount of sunscreen, not just sunscreen, is essential for adequate protection.
Have you ever used sunscreen and still become sunburnt? It has happened to many of us and it’s likely that our sun protection was not adequate and that sunscreen was not used properly. “…there’s a lot of clinical data out there in studies that show an average consumers use an average of 25% of what they should actually be using to attain the SPF cover that’s advertised on the bottle”, says Sam.
Sunscreen does work! You’ve just got to apply (and reapply, when necessary) sufficient amounts of it. So how much do we need? Approximately 6 teaspoons for adequate coverage! In all, keep this in mind; “you’re better off using an SPF 15 properly, than using a quarter of what you would with an SPF 50”, Sam said.
SPOTMYUVTM is helping eliminate guesswork of applying & reapplying sunscreen
SPOTMYUVTM is a novel UV detection sticker by Suncayr. Upon absorbing UV, sunscreen wears away until it’s no longer effective at protecting your skin against harmful UVs, which is why reapplication is so important. The challenge is you’ll never really know when your sunscreen is still working due to the many variables such as sweat, friction of clothes and degradation of active ingredients.
Thanks to SPOTMYUVTM, you can know just the time to reapply sunscreen! SPOTMYUVTM is an indicating sticker that reminds you when it’s time to reapply UV protection.
The small round sticker starts purple coloured. After you’ve stuck it to an area of your body that is exposed to the sun and you’ve applied sunscreen, it turns clear, indicating that you’re protected. As the sunscreen wears, it shows varying shades of purple again, telling you “it’s sunscreen reapplication time!” They’re perfect for kids and they are even water-resistant. You can learn more about how it works here.
With deliberateness and helpful innovative products like SPOTMYUVTM, we can get the sun protection that we really need, bring skin cancer cases to the barest minimum and liver healthier, fuller, and richer lives. Let’s do that! (winks)
Lasers are useful across a variety of aesthetic and even cancer treatments. But having laser treatments without first getting a skin check poses a huge health threat: delayed diagnosis of skin cancer.
Surely, you don’t want to get a laser treatment if it means running the risk of having skin cancer and not know it.
This is the point where you remind yourself that you can’t eat your cake and have it. But what if you could do the seemingly impossible— eat your cake and have it?
In our interview with Fiona Moss, a seasoned dermal clinician and University supervisor, she shared with us just what you need to do to eat this cake and have it. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Keep reading.
Understanding the Problem
To diagnose skin cancer, dermascopists use the dermatoscope to see deeper into the skin and inspect lesions. It’s the melanin and oxyhemoglobin structure of these lesions that give a clue on whether a lesion is benign or malignant. Unfortunately, when, for instance, you’re having a hair removal or skin rejuvenation done at your local laser clinic, the therapist is going to be targeting melanin and oxyhemoglobin.
Treating over lesions this way causes the usual structure to be disrupted. When your lesions are examined the results seen are no longer an accurate representation of what that lesion might be doing.
Bear in mind that not all lesions are cancerous. Treat over a non-cancerous lesion, no problem. But treat over a possibly malignant one and you’ve just buried a life-threatening problem. As such, the real task is to determine whether a lesion is or isn’t cancerous. And the easiest time to do that is before you’ve had lasers done.
The way out
An expert therapist knows to not treat over certain lesions, sometimes only after naked-eye inspection. He knows that doing so may be problematic in the long run. But you see not every laser therapist is an expert.
Particularly in Australia, there are practically no regulations on who can or can’t do a laser treatment. Most therapists are, therefore, focused on helping you take out pigmentation and get you those short term results that you want. And they often do that without even understanding the underlying risks.
If you want to get a laser treatment, you’re better off going to a medical clinic or a skin cancer clinic that’s specialized in treating cancers with lasers. Because of their experience and knowledge, they’ll know which lesions to cover and not to treat over. They’re also likely to encourage you to get a skin check before getting laser treatment.
You’re safer surrendering your body to a practitioner who has a nationally recognised certification than using a “highly trained” practitioner whose laser clinic is located at some corner 2 blocks away from your home.
With the perfect practitioner, there would usually be some initial consultation involved in the process of getting a laser. They would enquire about your medical history or inquiring to ensure that it would be safe for your health. They wouldn’t be focused solely on getting you to do the procedure right out the gate. If that isn’t the case, then that practitioner is after your money—their financial gains.
If a therapist doesn’t show professional concern or your overall health, that’s not the kind of therapist you want treating you.
The real hazard isn’t lasers themselves. Fiona agrees that lasers are incredible on the skin. Remove your freckles if you want to. Just do it the right way. And the right way is to put yourself in good hands—the hands of a highly qualified professional. And perhaps, to have your skin checked before getting lasers done.
Most people believe that melanoma is the only type of skin cancer, and we understand why. Melanoma is very popular, mostly because it’s the deadliest of all skin cancers. In reality, there are 3 skin cancer types and melanoma is the rarest of them all.
With melanoma or any other kind of skin cancer, the sun has been found to play a huge role. When we say the sun, we mean the UVA and UVB radiations which emanate from the sun. But it’s not the sun alone that releases these deadly rays.
“Other artificial sources such as solariums and sunbeds also radiate the UVR and people who have used a solarium have a greatly increased risk for skin cancer” explains Jane Homberger, a registered nurse and the founder of Skin Smart Australia.
What’s the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?
While both are harmful and should be avoided at all costs, Ultraviolet Ray A (UVA) and Ultraviolet Ray B (UVB) are not the same. The “UVA rays can penetrate deeply into the dermis” Jane says. In other words, they have a longer length of ray and are mostly responsible for skin ageing. UVB is shorter. But, it’s also fully capable of causing harm to the superficial layers of the skin.
Types of Skin Cancer
This is the most common of all skin cancer types, but thankfully, it is the least deadly. BCC is mainly caused by UV radiation from sun exposure. Little wonder why this skin cancer mostly affects areas such as the chest, face, shoulders, and back—they’re the most exposed to the sun.
This cancer type often manifests either as a flat pink scaly area or a raised pink pearly nodules. It also tends to not spread past the singular affected area. However, it does eat deep into the affected spot and can cause serious damage if not treated fast.
Like Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC for short) tends to also settle on sun-exposed areas of the body. However, it is characterized by a painful scaly lesion and can spread across various parts of the body. This is why treating this cancer as early as possible is key.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Because it spreads so rapidly, it is very difficult to treat. Melanoma evolves from the cell that produces melanin— the pigment that gives our skin its colour. Jane states that “melanoma rises in an existing mole, or it can grow as a new lesion. Just because a person had had a mole all their life doesn’t mean it can’t become melanoma when they’re adults”. Contrary to popular belief, melanoma can affect anyone at any age. Unlike BCC and SCC, it can grow on any part of the body, irrespective of whether or not the area is constantly exposed to the sun.
Factors that Determine Survival from Skin Cancer
- Early Diagnosis. The earlier the cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better.
- Genetic predisposition
- Specific Cancer Diagnosis.
The risk of skin cancer seems to be on the increase, especially in people under the age of 40. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can help ensure that cancerous changes are detected and treated before cancer manages to spread. It all starts with being aware of any change in your skin including hidden areas like your toes and scalp. Pay extra attention to your moles and seek medical attention the minute you notice an abnormality.
WHY SKINCARE MATTERS
Let me begin by saying that despite what has been discussed, ageing can still be a very positive journey and l for one see it as a privilege as unfortunately there are not many people who make it to their ‘golden years’.
However, when it comes to skincare we do need to stop looking at it as just purely an aesthetic concern and begin to see it as a health issue. Our skin that is vital and fragile will age, and its roles of protection and regeneration will diminish over time.
Due to our ever-growing ageing population, we are realizing how ageing skin can in fact be a real health problem that can complicate and due to co-morbidities can be made complicated.
As health care professionals in a clinical setting, knowledge of skin health is vital to ensure that it is being protected, maintained and if need be treated accordingly.
As individuals, we can help ourselves to ensure that skin health is maintained for as long as possible.
How can this be achieved?
From a clinical perspective, there are evidence-based interventions available to help promote and maintain skin health as individuals age by incorporating a prevention network. This network combines elements of education such as the importance of using sun protection, interventions for early diagnosis and treatment of skin problems such as skin cancer as well as protection against wounds and lesions such as skin tears.
Within this prevention network, there is also the element of providing therapeutic and rehabilitative interventions when skin issues are established such as providing emollient therapy for dry skin to control symptoms and maintain the integrity of the skin.
Fortunately, as individuals, we can incorporate this prevention network into our everyday lives, and it does not need to be made up of an array of complicated or elaborate routines. We need to maintain focus on preventing dry skin in ways such as bathing ourselves in lukewarm water and not hot as this can lead to skin sensitivity. Avoid vigorous rubbing when drying ourselves as this can create friction leading to a possible breakdown in skin integrity and ongoing issues.
Our skin is best protected by washing with pH balanced body and face washers. Daily application of emollient based creams or lighter based if preferred is important to not only alleviate skin dryness but also improve the barrier of the skin and microbial defences. Furthermore, daily sun protection with a broad-spectrum sunscreen is important to prevent skin cancers but also incorporating self-skin assessment is key to ensure early intervention.
Finally, when we talk about skin health it is about approaching it holistically so, therefore, incorporating a well-balanced diet is just as important as what we topically put onto our skin.
What hopefully has been highlighted, albeit only briefly, is not only how wonderful our skin is in all that it does for us, but also the importance of why it must be taken care of and maintained to help achieve the quality of life. This can be achieved in both clinical settings but also as individuals on a day-to-day basis.
The care of ageing skin must change focus from looking at it just from an aesthetic perspective to how the breakdown of structure and function affects the quality of one’s life. And this must start from an early age because if we are to take note of what the World Health Organisation has stated…prevention is far more effective and costs far less than treatment.
This blog post is written by Dora Erdossy, Dermal Educator & Dermal Clinician. With over 25 years’ experience in the Skin Care Industry, Dora Erdossy has worked as a Dermal Clinician and Educator for some of the industry’s largest brands across Australia, USA and Europe. Dora’s passion for education saw her become an educator for dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute in 2001 where she taught in Australia, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand. In 2005, Dora moved to the United States where for the next 3 years, she championed the role of Senior Educator at dermalogica’s Los Angeles HQ.⠀
Ageing Skin. When we think about this skin condition, it’s typical and normal for us to think about ageing skin from an aesthetic perspective. We think about wrinkles, fine lines, flaccid skin, uneven pigmentation and overall dryness and dehydration. We perhaps look at mature aged individuals and guestimate their age based on what we are seeing. However, it is time for us to view ageing skin in a different way.
Thanks to the generally high standard of living in most parts of the world, compared to previous generations, we are fortunately living much longer with better health. For instance, in 1946 the life expectancy was 65 years old whereas today it is 80 years old. In fact, approximately 36% of our population are over 65 years old.
Despite the fact, we are living longer and for many of us it is a healthy journey, living longer does come with new challenges. Ageing is linked to a series of physiological and pathological processes as the body overall is coping with multiple ageing organs and illnesses resulting in poly-morbidities.
Among these challenges is skin ageing. Ageing skin is associated with changes in its structure and functionality such as reduction in skin cell turnover and its potential for it to regenerate. What can all this lead too? Increased vulnerability and dryness which in turn can increase the risk of skin damage and infection.
Skin is a vital organ and is one of the most important organs of the body for our health and wellbeing. It is time for skin to be seen as an organ that must be taken care of not just for aesthetic purposes but to help maintain quality of life.
SKIN: THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENCE
We know that skin plays a vital role in being the first line of defence as its main function is to provide protection and act as a barrier between the body and our external environment. It is the largest organ of the body that also has additional functions such as maintaining body temperature, provides sensory functions in relation to temperature and touches as well as acting as a storage for water and fat stores.
Our skin consists of 2 primary layers known as the epidermis and the dermis and even though I could provide endless information about these two fascinating layers, for the purpose of this article, l will keep it brief.
The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin that plays two important roles. In no specific order, it provides protection from bacteria and other microbes and it also helps keep moisture within the skin.
If our skin becomes injured and impaired, the body can become subjected to the invasion of outside agents, which will lead to irritation and sensitivity. Furthermore, moisture can escape from the epidermis, known as trans-epidermal water loss and this can further impair barrier function.
What is worth noting here is the pH of the skin, which ideally should be between the pH of 4 to 5.5. The low pH of the skin creates what is known as the acid mantle which contributes to the barrier function of the skin. When the skin becomes damaged, it can shift the pH towards alkaline, increasing the skin’s susceptibility to bacterial skin infections.
The skin’s pH can also be increased by systemic diseases such as diabetes and even simple wound dressings can increase the skin pH which could potentially lead to further breakdown of the skin.
The dermis often called the ‘true skin’, supports and nourishes the epidermis. It contains important components of the skin such as blood vessels, nerve endings, hair follicles, sweat glands and the lymphatic system. The dermis also contains collagen which helps to provide strength and structure to the skin along with elastin fibres that provide skin its elasticity allowing it to return to shape after it has been stretched.
As we age, the production of collagen and elastin is reduced, which in turn leads to wrinkling, sagging and increased risk of skin tears. So as much as skin is incredibly durable, it too like all other systems of our body, eventually succumbs to the inevitable effects of ageing.
So how does the skin change as we age? What are the contributing factors?
We will delve into this in Part 2…..
This guest blog is written by Dora Erdossy, Dermal Educator & Dermal Clinician. With over 25 years’ experience in the Skin Care Industry, Dora Erdossy has worked as a Dermal Clinician and Educator for some of the industry’s largest brands across Australia, USA and Europe. Dora’s passion for education saw her become an educator for dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute in 2001 where she taught in Australia, Vietnam, Fiji and New Zealand.
In 2005, Dora moved to the United States where for the next 3 years, she championed the role of Senior Educator at dermalogica’s Los Angeles HQ.
Acne, also referred to as that one skin condition that almost everyone has to deal with
. Acne is one super common, and often persistent skin condition. Often acne is associated with the time period of puberty, but it is also a common concern for adults. Just when you think you’re on top of your breakouts, another sneaky pimple emerges. Why is that?
There are a variety of factors that contribute and exacerbate acne. Our failure to manage or address these underlying issues is one of the reasons acne is so relentless.
Below are 6 clues to what may be worsening your acne, as discussed in an interview we conducted with Prudvi Mohan Kaka, Chief Scientific Officer of DECIEM.
Yes, stress contributes to acne. Stress, particularly mental stress, often results in the increased production of a hormone called androgen. The androgen hormone increases the production of sebum. In turn, excess sebum clogs the follicle, creating an ideal environment for anaerobic bacteria to thrive. If you think stress is contributing to your acne, read a recent article we wrote on effective stress management strategy. (Link to: Blog from 16th September: Can meditation assist healing https://drive.google.com/file/d/1yYQVAWKNt5kU6Ow2KaH4gBUkbpZdyU3_/view?usp=sharing)
Medications such as antidepressants have a tendency to increase acne breakouts. Prudvi explained that drugs such as lithium or amoxapine could trigger breakout. He recommends speaking to your healthcare provider if your acne appears to be triggered by your medications.
- Genetic predisposition
Some people with acne have a genetic predisposition. While there isn’t a lot we can do about changing our genes, it may be interesting to ask your parents if they experienced acne as a young adult. If that’s the case, speak to your physician on management strategies.
- Excessive exfoliation and face washing
Washing and exfoliating excessively is a common behaviour of those with acne. This logic is often due to the misconception that acne is caused by poor hygiene. If anything over cleansing and exfoliating worsens acne as it causes drying and irritation to the skin, this in turn causes inflammation, impairs the skin barrier and increases sebum production. And so the cycle continues. A clue to whether your cleanser is drying out your skin is, does your skin feel tight after cleansing? If so, it is likely stripping away your skin’s vital lipids. Exfoliation is effective at removing skin cells before they can clog the follicle, choose a chemical exfoliant such as a papain enzyme or Beta Hydroxy Acid such as salicylic over a physical granular exfoliant.
- Sun exposure
Some people deliberately expose themselves to the sun because they believe it can help cure acne. This belief is not only incorrect but dangerous as it increases your risk of skin cancer. Excessive sun exposure causes inflammation, adding inflammation to an already impaired skin impairs healing and may even lead to worsening of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
We recognise, of course, incidental sun exposure is inevitable and that’s okay. Just don’t make it a part of an acne treatment regime. It doesn’t work.
- Popping and squeezing
Almost everyone is guilty of this. Tampering with, touching, and squeezing the acne lesions every chance you get is not the best action for your skin. Apart from prolonging the healing time of the acne, it leads to scarring and spreading of bacteria across your skin.
To treat your acne, you need to ascertain its root cause. One way you can find this out is by consulting with a qualified clinician. Also, observe your actions or habits and how they affect the acne by keeping a journal where you document all your observations.