Here comes the sun (and protecting your skin)

By Karen Kier, Pharmacist on behalf of the ONU HealthWise team

This week, I spent some time at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio enjoying the 2022 special exhibit, The Beatles: Get Back to Let It Be. The Beatles were inducted into the hall of fame in 1988 as a group, with each member individually being inducted in the years to come.  The exhibit features the docuseries by Peter Jackson including the 1969 rooftop concert in London. Although Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon were the major lyricists for The Beatles, George Harrison wrote the famous song Here Comes The Sun. George wrote the song in 1969 while staying at the country home of his friend Eric Clapton. The song was inspired by the arrival of spring and a temporary relief from the band’s business affairs. The song was recorded as part of the Abbey Road album released in 1969. George Harrison was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 with a speech by his friend and Traveling Wilburys’ band member Tom Petty.  

If the sun is coming, are you ready to protect your skin? May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.  Two people die of skin cancer every hour in the United States according to Five or more sunburns in your lifetime doubles your risk of developing melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer). Having your first sunburn as a child increases the risk of skin cancer by 80%.  Sun exposure accelerates skin aging and wrinkling, as well as skin cancer.  

Several medications can increase the risk of sunburn and sun damage. Photosensitivity is the term that is used to describe this increased risk. Both prescription medications, as well as over the counter drugs and supplements can increase the risk of sun damage. Common pain relievers including ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) increase the risk with sun exposure. Antihistamines used for allergies that can be purchased without a prescription can cause photosensitivity. Supplements like St. John’s Wort have been reported to increase the risk of sun damage. 

Many prescription medications can increase the risk including some antibiotics, heart medications, and mental health therapies. Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ) is a commonly used medication for blood pressure control and edema that increases risk of sunburn.  Fluoroquinolone antibiotics like levofloxacin and ciprofloxacin can rapidly shorten the time frame to a sunburn as well as tetracycline antibiotics such as minocycline and doxycycline. Some antidepressants increase the risk. Amiodarone, a drug used for heart rhythm control, can cause the skin to turn a grayish blue color when exposed to the sun.

So how do you help to protect your skin? Apply sunscreen and cover your skin with clothing and hats. When purchasing sunscreen, you want to look for coverage for both UVA and UVB sunlight and SPF factor. A common recommendation was anything above SPF 50 did not provide a substantial benefit when protecting from sunburn. A study in the Journal of the American Academy Dermatology disproved this theory. In a study of 200 men and women in Vail, Colorado, researchers had each participant put SPF 50 on one side of their face while covering the other side with a SPF 100 sunscreen.  After 6 hours of exposure including reapplication of sunscreen every 2 hours, more than 50% of individuals had more sunburn on the SPF 50 side of their face than the SPF 100 side. The investment in a higher SPF sunscreen may provide additional benefit. 

Keys to applying sunscreen include being generous with application including about 1 ounce to all exposed body parts. Apply the sunscreen at least ½ hour prior sun exposure.  It can take that long to get good absorption into the skin. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or when sunscreen could be sweated or washed off. Make sure to cover lips, ears, and areas on the scalp that are not covered with hair or a hat.  

It is nearly impossible to reverse sun damage to the skin, so protection is the key. An interesting study published in 2017 by researchers at Case Western Reserve University evaluated whether high-dose vitamin D could change some aspects of sun damage. Twenty people enrolled in the study that allowed researchers to induce a UV sunburn on their inner arm and then provided them with high-dose vitamin D to determine if it had any benefit on the skin. The FDA recommends a daily allowance of vitamin D at 400 IU. The researchers found a one-time dose of 200,000 IU of vitamin D showed a benefit in reducing redness and inflammation at 24, 48, and 75 hours after exposure. The researchers collected skin biopsies to evaluate benefits to the skin cells. The researchers theorize that high-dose vitamin D may help skin repair but until further studies are completed, they do not recommend treating sunburn with high-dose vitamin D.  

Here comes the sun!  Talk to your pharmacist for sunscreen and medication sun safety suggestions.

Feel free to call the ONU HealthWise Pharmacy for the science on COVID-19. ONU HealthWise is offering COVID-19 including boosters Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM. Call the pharmacy for an appointment for other time slots. The ONU HealthWise pharmacy offers Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. Call the pharmacy to get more information. 

ONU HealthWise Pharmacy

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