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Healthy Tahoe: Addressing sun damage from summer

Kathleen Holoyda
Dr. Kathleen Holoyda

A summer at the lake means a lot of time in the sun. Your skin takes on increased exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, and skin damage is common. Too much sun increases your risk of developing skin cancer and can create unwanted changes in your appearance.

UV exposure is dangerous and causes damage to the skin, including cancer and premature aging. While UVA and UVB affect the skin differently, both cause harm. UVB rays are the main cause of sunburn, and tend to damage the skin’s outer layers. These rays play a key role in the development of skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays. They play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling, but they also contribute to the development of skin cancers. 

While a small amount of exposure to sunlight is healthy, too much can be dangerous. Measures should be taken to prevent overexposure to sunlight in order to reduce the risks of cancers, premature aging of the skin, the development of cataracts, and other harmful effects.



We are reminded about prevention measures constantly: limit sun exposure; wear protective clothing and accessories; apply and reapply sunscreen with SPF. But after the summer season concludes, and now that the damage is done, what can be done?

Dead skin cells on the surface can be removed by exfoliating your skin with an alpha hydroxy acid cleanser or gentle scrub with a washcloth. After exfoliation, hydrate skin with a thick, rich moisturizer, and continue as part of your daily routine. A dermatologist or plastic surgeon can help you determine which skin regimen is best for your individual skin concerns and may prescribe medicated skin treatment utilizing topical creams, such as Retin-A, to aid the skin in natural renewal.



If you notice a new spot that changes in size or color, it’s best to consult a dermatologist to rule out skin cancer. Early detection of skin cancer means it can be treated early, when there is a better chance of success. Learning the signs of skin cancer and performing self-exams between visits to your health provider is extremely helpful in early diagnosis. Remember to continue to limit your exposure. Risk for skin cancer builds over time, as the body cannot fully repair damaged skin cells.

Some spots are not cancerous, but result in unwanted changes in appearance like tough skin, wrinkles, and dark brown spots. Dark spots occur when the skin produces excess melanin, the natural brown pigment that gives our skin color, signifying damage by UV rays. 

Procedures are available to treat skin discoloration and pre-cancer spots. Laser treatments rejuvenate skin by addressing early signs of facial aging, sun damage, tone, texture, and can even minimize pore size. The laser creates small channels in the surface of the skin that allow topical products, like serums and moisturizers, to penetrate deep into your skin, and have the ability to restore your appearance. Similarly, injectables like Botox and dermal fillers are minimally invasive cosmetic procedures to address fine lines and wrinkles, which provide volume and support in multiple areas of the face.

Everyone’s skin is different, and the sun takes its toll in different ways. It is important to remember that sun exposure not only lasts for the summer months; time spent on the slopes at high altitude with sun reflecting off of the snow can also increase the risk of the harmful effects of the sun’s rays. If you have concerns due to sun damage, options for treatment are available.

Dr. Kathleen Holoyda is a board-eligible plastic surgeon at Barton Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, offering Clear + Brilliant Laser Treatment, used in the treatment of sun-damaged skin. Dr. Holoyda will host a free Wellness Webinar: “Aging Skin & Sun Damage,” at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13. Register in advance, or view previously recorded webinars at BartonHealth.org/Lecture.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, call Barton Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery at 530-543-5799 or visit BartonHealth.org/PlasticSurgery.


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