Beyond Sunscreen

We’ve all heard it a million times… Wear Your Sunscreen! I feel like a broken record at work sometimes, reiterating the importance of this one product on the overall health of the skin. Who wouldn’t want a reduced risk of skin cancer development, slower formation of fine lines and wrinkles, prevention of uneven pigmentation and dark spots, to name a few benefits? Yet people still fight me on applying it daily. I’m not going to beat a dead horse, though. This article is going to talk about a few adjunct products that can be incorporated into your daily routine for those days when “you’re not in the sun” or “just running errands.”

Clothing is our first line of defense against ultraviolet rays. After a long Colorado winter, the thought of covering up with long sleeves and pants is less than desirable, I get it. The more surface area you cover, though, the less damage you’ll incur. There are many clothing lines that now come with a UPF rating. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor and is associated with clothing and fabrics. It measures the amount of UVA and UVB radiation that penetrates through the fabric weave and actually reaches the skin. Like with SPF, the higher the number, the more protective it is.

When I first started shopping for UPF rated clothing it seemed like my only options were safari camp shirts and cargo pants. Needless to say, I didn’t want to walk around looking like I was an extra for Out of Africa. Over the years, styles have become much better. Companies like Solumbra by Sun PrecautionsCoolibar, and Athleta are great options for protective clothing in cute fabrics and fashionable designs.

Sunglasses are another necessity that should be in everyone’s protective arsenal. Besides making everybody look really cool, sunglasses help protect the fragile eyelid and eyeball tissue. Cancers of the eyelid actually account for 5 to 10 percent of all skin cancers (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2012)! Several clinical studies have also linked UV light exposure to the development of cataracts (Linetsky M, 2014). Macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss of people over 60 in the U.S., may also have a connection to long-term UV ray exposure but more research is still needed. (Skin Cancer Foundation, 2012) In the short term, the delicate and very important cornea can be affected by photokeratitis which is also called radiation keratitis. This is, essentially, a sunburned cornea that can be quite painful and feel like there’s grit in your eye. All of these issues can be delayed or totally avoided just by slipping on a pair of glasses.

Shopping for sunglasses can be an overwhelming endeavor with hundreds of designers and styles to pick from. Choose frames that fit close to your face and adequately cover the entire eye area including the temple. Like the UPF clothing, the more area that’s covered means more overall protection. All lenses should have 99 to 100 percent UV protection. This protection level is unrelated to the color or darkness of the actual lenses. Also, polarization helps decrease glare but doesn’t take the place of UV protection. (American Optometric Association)

I’ve been talking about sun protection working from the outside in. Now I’m going to switch to the inside out. There are several supplements on the market that taut increased photoprotection systemically but the one we recommend at the office is Heliocare. Heliocare uses the extract from the Polypodium Leucotomos fern to boost antioxidant levels in the body which has been shown to delay tumor formation, restore normal apoptosis (cell death), and increase the production of the  p53 gene that suppress tumors in UV-treated mice. (Rodríguez-Yanes E1, 526-8) (Bhatia, 2015) It is, by no means, a substitution for daily topical SPF but works synergistically with it for an added layer of protection. This supplement is an easy addition for everybody but even more so for those individuals who spend a lot of time outside, at high elevations, and with pigment issues like melasma.

I’m sure if everybody would do all of these things to protect their skin the incidences of skin cancer, actinic keratosis and general photo damage issues would drop exponentially and put me out of work, but that will never happen.  Protect your largest organ and wear sunscreen every day and try a few of these other suggestions. Your body will thank you in the long run!


American Optometric Association. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from

Bhatia, N. (2015). Polypodium leucotomos: a potential new photoprotective agent. American Journal of Dermatology , 73-9.

Linetsky M, R. C. (2014). UVA light-excited kynurenines oxidize ascorbate and modify lens proteins through the formation of advanced glycation end products: implications for human lens aging and cataract formation. Journal of Biological Chemistry , 1074.

Richard R. Winkelmann DO, a. J. (2015, March). Polypodium Leucotomos Extract: A Status Report on Clinical Efficacy and Safety. Retrieved May 12, 2017, from

Rodríguez-Yanes E1, C. J. (526-8). Oral administration of Polypodium leucotomos delays skin tumor development and increases epidermal p53 expression and the anti-oxidant status of UV-irradiated hairless mice. Experimental Dermatology , 2014.

Skin Cancer Foundation. (2012, December 7). Retrieved May 11, 2017, from

 Written By: Sarah Rutherford, PMA.