What to Tell Patients to Ensure They Use Sunscreen


As a seasoned medical aesthetics treatment provider, you know firsthand the extent to which sun exposure can break down skin health and undercut treatment results. Patients, on the other hand, may often take a more laissez-faire approach to sun care. Wearing sunscreen only sometimes and skipping it when there’s plenty of cloud coverage seems harmless to patients, so it can take a little extra effort to convince them to take precautions to prevent UV damage when they often can’t notice its negative effects in just one day. However, all it takes is the right approach to reason with your patients, show them the effects of skipping their SPF, and convince them to use sunscreen daily for improved treatment results and better patient satisfaction.

How to Get Your Patients to Listen to Your Sun Care Tips

Explain the Sun’s Effects

Patients may be aware that they should be wearing sunscreen, but they might not entirely understand why. Often, patients may note that skin feels drier after a long day in the sun or they’ll notice a sunburn or a tan, but they may not really know how sun can affect the skin in ways that aren’t so temporary. Being prepared with a streamlined, easy-to-understand explanation of the impact of sun exposure extending beyond the skin’s surface may help patients better understand why sunscreen is an important aspect of their daily skin care regimen. Consider the following explanation as a jumping off point for the information you might present to your patients.

The sun’s rays contain ultraviolet (UV) photons, which are like little bits of energy. They may be divided into two types: UVA and UVB. Invisible to the naked eye, both types of UV photons can cause mass damage to the skin, beginning on the surface and extending deep below. Without taking proper sun care precautions, UVB photons are absorbed by the epidermis (the surface layer of skin) where they excite molecules in the skin. To release the absorbed energy, skin’s molecules begin to warp via chemical reactions, resulting in the development of a couple brown spots, melasma, a burn, or worse. UVA photons, on the other hand, penetrate deeper into the skin, causing damage to elastin and collagen proteins, which are two building blocks for smooth, firm skin. Over time, this results in the molecular breakdown and death of skin cells, which your skin will eventually be unable to keep up with. All of this can occur regardless of your skin type and skin tone, from Fitzpatrick Type I (very fair) to Fitzpatrick Type VI (darker skin tones).

Reminder: Damage Is Cumulative

Some patients may think that a little bit of sun exposure here and there surely won’t hurt. Unfortunately, that leads us to the sad truth about America’s disappointing track record of sunscreen use. As a recent ABC News poll reported, just 53% of women and 36% of men apply SPF—“sometimes.” This is often a result of patients believing they won’t be exposed to all that much UV radiation on cold or cloudy days or believing they are shielded from the sun’s harmful rays while indoors. It’s important to remind patients that those little bits of UV exposure every day may not hold any immediately visible effects, but they really do add up over time. In fact, on average, one’s risk of developing melanoma from UV radiation increases 200% with just five sunburns in their lifetime. The negative effects of sun exposure are cumulative, meaning that the damage done on six of the seven days a patient doesn’t wear sunscreen could potentially be just as bad for skin health as their skipping sunscreen on that one day.

Let Them See It to Believe It

Sometimes a little shock factor can help prove a point. Some patients may hear the facts but unless they can see they damage, they may not heed your warnings. To help persuade patients to wear their sunscreen and truly understand the cumulative effects of sun damage, consider incorporating ultraviolet-imaging technology into your services. Using a camera that incorporates a near UV flash, UV-imaging technology is able to reveal markings caused by UV damage to the naked eye. In the image, areas suffering from cumulative UV damage appear darker. Spanning from freckle-like dots to large, solid patches, these images can help patients understand how sun exposure is affecting their skin in ways they’ve never been able to see before. Likewise, this imaging equipment may be used to help patients learn where they have neglected to properly apply sunscreen, helping you to better educate your patients on application techniques. 

Offer Sunscreen Suggestions

For some patients, the sunscreen options can be overwhelming, causing them to give up in defeat or use the wrong sunscreen rendering the effort somewhat useless after all. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology reported that nearly 40% of those who say they use sunscreen regularly aren’t sure if the products they use actually provide UVA and UVB protection. To add to this, some patients may be wary of chemical sunscreens while others may be of the belief that sunscreens are too thick, oily, or otherwise uncomfortable when applied—especially to the face.

The best way to help these patients get onboard with regular sunscreen use is to have a list of recommendations ready for them. Consider selling premium sunscreen products in your clinic, be open to suggesting mineral alternatives to patients who aren’t convinced of the safety of chemical products, and don’t forget to have some custom suggestions for patients with sensitive or oily skin. By making the process of finding the right sunscreen easy, you’ve taken a lot of the weight off your patient’s shoulders while improving

overall patient satisfaction by going above and beyond. Offering this level of service is sure to improve your patient retention rate.

Note That Treatments Have Their Limitations

Finally, as a last resort, it might be necessary to get extra honest with patients about the results they might see from medical aesthetics treatments. While non-invasive wrinkle reduction and photorejuvenation treatments may help target some of these effects, they certainly aren’t magic—like any beauty treatment, they have their limitations. Let patients know that the only way to achieve optimal results from their customized treatment plans is to adapt a preventative skin care regimen that includes sunscreen to prevent further signs of premature aging. Be sure that patients understand their role in post-treatment care to ensure optimal results and that care includes sunscreen. It may also be useful to note that a full 90% of skin aging is a result of sun damage—a statistic that suggests that preventing sun damage could also prevent the need for otherwise unnecessary additional treatments.

Of course, it’s always best to ensure you’re offering the most advanced treatment modalities to help patients attain the results they’re after in combination with an effective skin care regimen that incorporates good sun safety habits and adequate SPF. Upgrade your treatment platforms today with Venus Concept’s lineup of advanced treatment devices to improve skin elasticity, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and address sunspots, vascular marks, and other discoloration concerns. Contact an expert today to find the right solution for your clinic.

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