During this very unprecedented summer, New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD has been seeing one steady constant among patients.
“We are seeing a tremendous amount of sun damage right now,” she says. “Due to the current circumstances, everyone is spending more time outdoors. We crave vitamin D, we crave outdoors and fresh air, and there’s not much else to do. With everything going on, people seem to be paying less attention to sun protection.”
On the other coast—that sun-is-almost-always-shining, 365-days-a-year one—Santa Monica, CA dermatologist Ava Shamban, MD is seeing it too.
“Whether they’re working from home and in front of the window all day or spending significantly more hours outside that they think ‘don’t count,’ most people aren’t using adequate sun protection,” she says. “Skin is skin. We all need to love the skin we are in starting with sun protection and we all need it 365—it’s not necessarily the time spent hiking, biking or on the beach that gets you.”
While the American Academy of Dermatology recommends applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that also states “water-resistant” on the label rain or shine, Dr. Russak agrees that it’s the “of course I wear sunscreen when I’m at the beach” excuse that can cause some serious skin-safety issues. “Most people don’t realize that no matter where you are, if you are in the sun, you will be getting sun damage. All my patients have been coming into the office darker than we’ve ever seen them before, so we are discussing aggressive procedures—nothing shorter than that will reverse all the damage.”
“And with face masks and not having to go into work, people can afford the downtime!”
Likewise, La Jolla, CA plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD says, besides the obvious use of recommending sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen, skin care and light peels for pigment change can help with sun damage as well.
“Patients definitely have more leisure time now and more sunburns now,” he says. “There’s also some funny-looking tans and burns because of masks.”
At New York facial plastic surgeon John Kang, MD’s office, he says it’s been both sides of the—quite literal—spectrum.
“There are many people out there spending way too much time under the sun, especially golf lovers, including myself, while the UV index is at its highest,” he says, adding that he suspects those patients will book an appointment in mid-Fall/early Winter to get their photo-facial work or pigment lasers.
“On the other hand, there’s has been an uptick of more patients ‘safely’ hiding themselves indoors, which allows for us to aggressively treat things like acne scars using Fraxel and pigmentary issues using Picosure Laser. Normally, we wouldn’t use either machine during the summer months to aggressively treat patients if they weren’t ‘mostly’ staying home to optimize their healing and avoiding sun.”