“There really is no such thing as a safe tan” - Univ. of Iowa dermatologist offers sun safety tips for the summer months

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 5:29 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Sun safety is especially important this year as the CDC lists skin cancer as the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States. TV-9 spoke with a dermatologist from the University of Iowa who explained the reality of a summer glow.

Dr. Marta Van Beek says while many are very familiar with the internal effects of sun exposure, the debate on the external impacts continues to grow.

“Getting a tan damages your skin at the cellular level, causes premature aging, fine lines and wrinkling, and splotchiness as you get older,” said Dr. Van Beek.

She sees plenty of patients who are trying to do what they can to prevent sun damage. In her time as a dermatologist, the advice on that front has not changed: wear at least 30 SPF sun screen and reapply every two hours while in the sun.

“I think people are just starting to catch on to listening to how to protect their skin, and of course the beauty industry is a large industry, people trying to buy creams to reverse that aging that they’ve gotten from the sun,” said Dr. Van Beek,

An ultraviolet index of three or higher is the general cutoff, according to the CDC, that skin protection is necessary. That means staying in the shade, wearing a wide brim hat, and using a broad spectrum SPF.

With skin cancer being the most prevalent form of cancer in the U-S, more than 20,000 cases a year could be prevented with these protocols.

“They either get a sunburn, which is a direct damage to the skin, but even tanning damages the skin and in order to get a tan you have to damage the skin and your skin is just trying to protect itself from getting more sun by creating a tan.” said Dr. Van Beek.