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Shocking Photo: Time to Get Out The SPF!

The most compelling example of why you should wear sunscreen we've ever seen. Seriously.

June 1st, 2012

New England Journal of Medicine
Unilateral Dermatoheliosis

Dermatologists, beauty editors and moms everywhere can tell you to wear sunscreen until they turn, well, red in the face. It’s up to you to make the real effort.

But in much the same way those gruesome anti-smoking campaigns can persuade you to ditch the Marlboros for good, this extreme example of what the sun’s rays are truly capable of might inspire even the most negligent of sun worshippers to don SPF 1000 immediately.

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Behold, the unfortunate case of a 69-year-old truck driver who spent the better part of 30 years on the big rig. As anyone who’s ever gotten a gnarly sunburn on one arm can attest, the left side of our body—the one exposed to the sun when driving—is particularly vulnerable to UV rays. Still, we can only imagine Northwestern University researchers Joaquin C. Brieva and Jennifer R.S. Gordon were beyond amazed to stumble upon this particular truck driver as a prime human specimen that exemplifies just how damaging these rays can be.

Due to his vocation, the subject experienced what the researchers—whose observations were recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine—noted was a case of unilateral dermatoheliosis. This syndrome, associated with photo-damaged skin, is what can happen when chronic UVA exposure results in the “thickening of the epidermis and stratum corneum, as well as destruction of elastin fibers.”

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In this case, we can clearly see the contrast in exposure levels, not to mention the dramatically different results. How mind-blowing is this picture?

"For a dermatologist, this image is like the best Christmas present ever!" says Dr. Jeanine Downie, M.D., YouBeauty Dermatology Expert. "This proves what we've been saying for years. People need to understand that UVA rays penetrate through window glass, and they need to apply broad spectrum protection of at least SPF 30 every day and reapply every two hours."

In the end, the researchers noted, “The use of sun protection, topical retinoids and periodic monitoring for skin cancer were recommended for the patient.” We’d also recommend that to anyone, any age, any time.

With that lesson in mind, we now conclude this after-school special report on the dangers of sun exposure. Enjoy the weekend safely kids!

MORE: Your Guide to Your Best Skin

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