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Healthy Skin - It's Oh, So Fashionable!

July 11, 2014

A century ago, during the latter part of the Victorian era, women’s fashions were marked by high, stiff collars, long sleeves and floor-sweeping skirts. Showing skin was unheard of. Then came the 1920s and the buttoned-up Gibson girl gave way to the free-spirited flapper. Hemlines now grazed the knees and arms emerged, bare all the way to the shoulder. The new look was far more than a fashion trend, but a reflection of changing societal mores. Later, after World War II took soldiers to tropical locations, it became more socially acceptable for men to wear short pants and short sleeved shirts. Unfortunately, these marked transformations in 20th century fashion proved the start of generations more susceptible than ever to developing skin cancer.

Dr. Michael Steppie, MD, president and medical director of Central Florida’s Associates in Dermatology, regard patients as family. As such, he’s been known to dole out a bit of fatherly advice to patients – “Cover up!” At the peak of summer here in sunny Florida, that’s sage advice, in deed.

Clothing is the single most effective form of protection from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays, and clothing manufacturers are banking on new textile technologies that not only offer broad-spectrum sun protection but also reflect the sun’s infrared rays, wick sweat away from the skin and cool the body. This is important because excursions to the beach, swimming pool or favorite fishing spots invariably place you and your family in the sun for hours at the time. Plus, splashing in the sun and feeling the wind created from the speed of a boat flying across the water can create a deceptively cooling sensation. While we may not feel the heat of the sun during these activities, those damaging rays are a constant presence, and a constant danger to your family’s health. To better protect yourself and your family, consider purchasing items from the following brands, each of which has earned the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation for sun protective clothing and hats:

  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Columbia Sportswear
  • Coolibar
  • J. Crew
  • Land’s End
  • O’Neill Wetsuits
  • Quicksilver
  • Roxy
  • Specialized Bicycles
  • Sundriven
  • Wallaroo Hats Company
  • Whitworth Hats

When shopping for new fashions, look for items labeled with UPF ratings. UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor and tells consumers how well a particular garment filters out the sun’s UV rays. Factor figures refer to just how much of the sun’s UV radiation permeates your clothing. For example, a light cotton T-shirt with a UPF of five will allow one fifth of the sun’s UV rays to penetrate the fabric and reach your skin. Whereas, a long-sleeved denim shirt with a UPF of 1,700 offers near full protection – virtually a sun block. The brands listed above meet staunch requirements that include a UPF of 30 or higher and acceptable test results according the standards of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists method or AS/NZS Standard.

But other more conventional clothing types also offer protection. Polyester, nylon, wool, silk and denim all are effective fabric choices. Loosely woven, bleached cottons and crepe offer little or no protection from the sun. Great brands to choose from include San Soleil and Sun Soaked.

Why risk the accelerated aging and potential development of skin cancer by exposing your skin to the sun? The fact is that healthy, smooth, vibrant skin is by far the most alluring fashion statement you can make. Dress wisely and use a high SPF broad spectrum sunblock every time you go outside. Ideally, choose a sunblock that’s free of chemical sun filters, such as Steppie MD Infinity UV Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+, available in tube and spray versions. Also, be sure to schedule regular skin cancer screenings at one of our 12 Central Florida Associates in Dermatology locations.

Remember that covering up is the best line of defense for you and your loved ones.

For further details on SUN SAFE clothing check out this article in the latest volume of the Skin Cancer Foundation Journal.

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