Souvenirs From the Sun

During the dead of winter many people flock to the sun whether in Florida, California, the Southwest or the Caribbean. Because we’re coming from a winter climate, we forget that our bodies have adapted to the winter and that when we expose ourselves to the sun and surf, there are changes that we need to consider.

One of the most dramatic changes may be the reaction of our skin to the sun. This isn’t just about sunscreen, this is about deeper issues that become very noticeable when we fly to the sun from the snow. Two that are the most noticeable involve pigmentation or the lack of…

After lying leisurely on the beach you may notice white spots developing on your back, stomach or arms. This will be more noticeable the tanner you get. Often this will be misdiagnosed as vitiligo when in fact this is a special fungal skin condition known as Tinea Versicolor, a condition caused by a small organism that lives in sand. There will be small white “sun spots” that may become a bit scaly and can coalesce into larger patches. They don’t itch and will tend to lighten over time, but don’t repigment easily. If you’re lying in the sand, then you’re a free trip waiting for a passenger.

Treatment for this is quite easy and well worth trying! Apply a Selenium Sulfide shampoo undiluted to the areas where pigmentation has been affected. Do this at bedtime and wash off in the morning. Do this for 3-4 days in a row and then stop. If you experience irritation of the skin, then wash it off after 20-60 minutes. Another option if this does irritate your skin is to use any shampoo with either 2% zinc pyrithione or 2% salicylic acid. Use it undiluted the same way for 2 weeks. Now it usually won't repigment until you are exposed to sun again. Should you experience a recurrence then it means that the causative organism is most likely in the scalp and so the scalp needs to be done along with the affected areas. But when first treating, simply do the affected areas.

Now let’s move on to the second issue, extreme sensitivity to the sun. There can be a number of reasons for photosensitivity including pharmaceutical drugs (sulfonamides, tetracyclines, thiazides), herbs such as St. John’s Wort and topical agents. But one of the best ways to address photosensitivity, especially if you regularly burn easily, is to up your ionizable calcium. The bones are only storage areas for calcium, but calcium is actually used in numerous tissues of the body including the skin. If the skin does not have enough ionizable calcium, then it will become extremely sensitive to the sun. I recommend Cataplex F tablets for every patient that is traveling from winter to summer in one fell swoop. It can dramatically change not just the skin, but immunity, healing capacity and energy!

The sun is an essential ingredient in our ability to create Vitamin D, so don’t avoid it… manage it.

Karen Clickner