Common sense advice from Dr. Heather Rogers, MD
Aside from cosmetic concerns like wrinkles, age spots and broken blood vessels, the sun’s damaging effects to our health are real and significant. The number of woman under 40 diagnosed with skin cancer with has more than doubled in the last 30 years. And the incidence of squamous cell carcinoma has increased almost 7 times.
We can do a better job of protecting ourselves, and it starts with being smart about safeguarding our skin by remembering these basics below:
- The rules for skin care don’t change with the season
As the gray winter months fade away and warmer weather beckons you to get outside, the first thing you’ll want to do is dump those layers of clothing and feel the warmth of the sun’s rays on your skin. Why not—it’s springtime!
The season’s longer days and milder temperatures can be the perfect time to revel in your favorite outdoor activities. But unless you are sun smart, even the mild spring sun will damage your skin leading to age spots, wrinkles and skin cancer. No matter the time of year, it’s important to recognize that the rules don’t change when it comes to protecting your skin against the sun’s damaging rays. Here’s a primer on how to safely indulge your spring fever.
- What sunscreen, when, and where?
Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of at least 30 to provide full UVB and UVA protection. And use it regularly!
Remember, sunscreen becomes less effective the longer you leave it on, so a good rule of thumb is to reapply every two hours. Apply sunscreen to any area of your body that is exposed to the sun, and, reapply frequently. That’s an area where a lot of people fail.
- The right clothing helps too
Covering up is another essential part of effectively protecting your skin. We’ve come a long way from the first shirts with a UPF rating (the term used for sun-protective apparel) that looked like awful gunnysacks; quality rash guards and sun shirts in a variety of styles are now widely available for children or adults and work great in and out of the water. Wear a hat and sunglasses to provide protection for your face, eyes, ears and head. Great skin is the chicest accessory of all.
- Seek shade
If your plan is simply to slather on the sunscreen then soak up hours of rays and think you’re protecting yourself, think again. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection, the American Academy of Dermatology also recommends seeking shade when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Another source of UV rays that sometimes gets overlooked is reflection from water, snow and sand, so don’t assume that you’ll only need to watch out for sunlight from above.
Remember, skin cancer can be prevented!
The majority of skin cancers could be prevented with sun safe habits, so why is there a skin cancer epidemic? The answer is not fully understood but we know our aging population, the difficulty of changing behaviors, and increasing patient awareness all play a roll.
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