June 2010


Author: Courtney Hampson | Photographer: Photography By Anne

EAU D’ WHAT? Not all things French are sexy and sophisticated. Take the term “p’eau d’orange,” for instance. P’eau d’orange means “like the skin of an orange,” which is basically what your face looks like with sun damage—raised, bumpy, tough, less than attractive.

Sun damage is no joke, and as the eternal Lowcountry summer springs forward, there are a few things you should know. Dermatologist, Dr. Oswald Mikell, filled us in on why we need to protect ourselves each time we step out in the sun.

When you are out in the sun, you are being exposed to solar radiation. That radiation accumulates, and each time you are subject to the sun’s rays, your exposure adds up. Mikell likened it to a barrel filling with rain water. Each time it rains the barrel gets closer and closer to full, eventually spilling over because it can’t hold any more water. The same goes for your skin. With each exposure, you are adding more and more damage to your skin, eventually that cup will run over and your skin will rebel, he explained. The bottom line is this: The sun is bad for you. It will age and wrinkle your skin and can cause skin cancer.

Now, if you insist on sun worship, know that the less your skin tans (the paler you are), the worse the sun is for you. But, it is important to note that even black skin, given enough exposure, can suffer damage and be susceptible to cancer.

Sun worshippers may debate the need for vitamin D, and it is true that the sun provides vitamin D. However, so do vitamin supplements. According to Mikell, “It is completely reasonable—and safer—to get your daily dose of vitamin D from a supplement rather than the sun.”

So now we know that our skin ages much more rapidly due to continuous sun damage. In fact, Mikell tells us that the majority of cosmetic procedures are actually correcting the effects of sun damage: wrinkles, freckles, age spots, creases. Yes! That woman whose face looks like your favorite leather messenger bag? That’s because she spent way too many hours in the sun. Sun exposure equals wrinkles!

Aged skin, while not aesthetically pleasing, is actually the better scenario. Skin cancer is what we should be even more concerned about.

The discussion on skin cancer, like any disease, can become highly technical. If you have questions or concerns, seek a doctor’s advice. Mikell’s website (dalcdermatology.com) has great resource information and a number of links, if you’d like to dig deeper.

• One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

• Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases in two million people are diagnosed annually.

• Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.

• About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

• Up to 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun.

Cancer occurs when normal cells grow and multiply. As the cells multiply, they form masses called tumors or lesions. These tumors are cancerous only if they are malignant, meaning that they invade neighboring tissues because of their uncontrolled growth.Skin cancers are divided into two main types: keratinocyte cancers (basal and squamous cell skin cancers) and melanomas. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common and are found mainly on parts of the body exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck. They are directly related to the amount of sun exposure accumulated over a person’s lifetime. Melanomas are cancers that develop from melanocytes, the cells that make the brown pigment that gives skin its color. Melanocytes can also form benign growths, more commonly known as moles. They can occur anywhere on the body but are more likely to develop in certain locations. The trunk is the most common site in men and the legs in women.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You’ve heard this all before. But someone isn’t listening if one in five of us are going to get skin cancer. If you are still not convinced that a life indoors is for you, you must protect yourself. Wear sun block.

Sunscreen is a chemical agent created to help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of your sunscreen is a multiplier. If you usually burn within 15 minutes of being in the sun and you use SPF2, you are protected for 30 minutes. But according to Mikell, it isn’t an exact science and the question is: When does it start working?

If the bottle reads, “apply 30 minutes before going out in the sun,” does it not start working until you are in the sun? Is SPF 2 going to protect you for 30 minutes after you step out in the sun or has the protection worn off during your drive to the beach?

So, what is the solution? Well, you know your body best. You know when you are starting to feel a little crisp, so re-apply—often.

And likewise, you are the best person to recognize if something is amiss on your body. If you find something new or growing, get it checked out. Don’t spend your time debating what is normal. Consider what is normal for your body. Is something changing rapidly? Do you have a funny looking mole? Is something inflamed? Are people looking at you funny (just kidding)?

If any of the above apply to you, make an appointment with a doctor. For matters of the skin, a dermatologist will be your expert.

Orange you glad you read this?


Dermatology makes more diagnoses than any other medical specialty. If you sense that something is wrong, do it right the first time: Seek professional advice.

The physicians and providers at Lowcountry Dermatology Associates specialize in treating all diseases of the skin, hair and nails, offering a broad range of medical, cosmetic, laser and surgical procedures.

Dr. Oswald Mikell is double board certified by the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery. He has been practicing dermatology in Beaufort, Jasper and Colleton counties since 1982 and is a leader in the field of Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Mikell is a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia, serving his internship and residency in dermatology at Naval Regional Medical Center, San Diego, CA. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, American Society for Mohs Surgery and the American College of Phlebology. He is past president of the South Carolina Dermatology Association and has served as a trustee, secretary and treasurer of the South Carolina Medical Association. In May, 2008, he was named “Dermatologist of The Year” by the South Carolina Dermatologic Association.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article