Dr. Wallace:

I’m a faithful reader of your column and hope you will answer my question. When I exercise, I open my mouth really wide several times because I thought it would tone my face a little, but now I’ve been told this can cause wrinkles. Is this true?

— Karla, Moline, Ill.

Karla: Old age and the sun are to blame for wrinkles, not exercise. If exercise was the cause, both male and female athletes would look like prunes.

Since you want to avoid wrinkled skin, the following letter should be of interest to you.

Dr. Wallace:

Every summer I get a dark tan; I love the look. I use the proper sunscreen and have never had a sunburn. Is it still dangerous to get a tan if the skin never burns? I know that a slight tan is healthy. How about the deep, rich tan?

— Lynn, Ames, Iowa

Lynn: There’s no such thing as a healthy tan. Simply put, a tan is the result of your skin being baked. A slight tan is bad, a dark, rich tan is worse and a burn is worst of all. “Baked skin” can result in everything from premature wrinkling to skin cancer (the most common kind of cancer). Of course, if you plan to spend time in the sun, it is imperative that you use a sunscreen rated at least SPF 15. Unprotected skin can be harmed by ultraviolet rays in as little as 15 minutes. Sunscreen reduces sun damage, but does not eliminate it.

Dr. Wallace: I’m an active young lady and I get very good grades in school. I also have two very, very close friends. As soon as I get home from school, I call one of my friends, or one of them calls me. We talk about homework, what happened at school, boys, and a lot of other neat stuff. This usually takes about 30 minutes.

Then around 6:30, after dinner, I call the other friend, or she will call me. We will discuss the same things. This conversation usually takes another half hour. Then at 10 p.m., I call one of my friends and we discuss the television programs we just watched. Between calls, I do all my chores and all my homework.

Last night my mom was in a grumpy mood and got upset with the time I spend on the phone. She said I was just wasting time and from now on I can only be on the phone for a total of 30 minutes to talk and if I speak longer, I will be forced to lose one day’s telephone privileges. She said that she was going to time every call.

I feel my mom overreacted. Do you agree? If you agree with me, Mom might change her mind. Sometimes I laugh a lot on the phone and it interferes with Mom’s TV watching.

— Nameless,

Madison, Wis.

Nameless: Agree to eliminate the 10 p.m. “television evaluation” calls and ask for two 20-minute calls per evening with your friends. This might be a reasonable compromise for an active young lady who gets very good grades. A lot of juicy info can be sent over the telephone wires in 40 minutes. If mom won’t change her mind, see if you can squeeze in a few extra minutes by doing extra chores.

Write to Dr. Wallace at rwallace@galesburg.net.