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Sun and Skin: a QA with Marla Ahlgrimm

September 7, 2018

Marla AhlgrimmWhile the sun has numerous health benefits, including increasing your body’s production of vitamin D and warding off depression, Marla Ahlgrimm explains that too much exposure to UV radiation can have serious consequences for your skin.

Q: What causes uneven pigmentation?

Marla Ahlgrimm: When the skin is exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time, it automatically increases production of melanin. This is the pigment that gives your skin a suntanned appearance. Over time, a pigmentation increase can result in dark spots. The sun can also damage small blood vessels, giving your skin a red hue.

Q: Can people with naturally dark skin still get sunburned?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Absolutely. Increased melanin, which is present in the epidermis, provides added protection against the sun. However, those with darker skin, such as African-American, Latino, and Eastern European people, can still experience sunburn and subsequent skin damage.

Q: What is labial lentigo?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Labial lentigo is a dark brown lesion that forms on the lips after prolonged and repeated sun exposure. It is typically a single lesion and almost always forms on the lower lip. It looks somewhat like a flat mole. These types of lesions can form anywhere on the body. It is not uncommon for a person with a fair complexion to develop dozens to hundreds of these spots on their back, shoulders, and chest after a week at the beach without sunscreen.

Q: Are women at risk of melasma after sun exposure?

Marla Ahlgrimm: Melasma, which is mostly associated with pregnancy, is a darkening of the skin on the face. It is more common in women and is associated with the hormones progesterone and estrogen. There are many factors that determine whether or not a woman will experience melasma and these include exposure to sunlight and whether or not she takes hormone therapy or oral contraceptives. It’s important to note that melasma is different from other brown spots as it typically fades during the winter months or when exposure to hormones has ceased.

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