Warmer temperatures are on the way and now that we have extra daylight and sunnier days ahead, you may be thinking about catching some rays as you enjoy the weather. Before you head out into the sun, here are some tips to make sure that you and your family stay sun safe.
Most Sun Damage is Done When We’re Kids, Right?
Not necessarily. We actually get less than 25 percent of our total sun exposure by age 18, according to new research. Each 20-year period after that averages another 25 percent --so adopting new, healthy skin habits can save your life.
Isn’t Indoor Tanning Safer Than Baking in the Sun?
No! That misconception lures more than a million people -- 71 percent of them are women under 30 -- to tanning salons every day. High-pressure bulbs in tanning beds emit as much as 12 times the UVA that the sun does, increasing your risk of melanoma by 75 percent if you started indoor tanning before age 35. The only safe tan comes from a bottle.
Do I Really Need to Wear Sunscreen 365 Days a Year?
Yes. Slather it on every inch of exposed skin every single day. For the record, SPF foundation does not count (you do not use enough of it to be protected), so layer it on top of sunscreen.
Heading to the beach? Apply SPF from head to toe before suiting up (swimsuits can shift, revealing unprotected skin). Then reapply every 80 minutes or immediately after swimming. The sun isn’t shining? Cloudy, rainy and snowy days can have up to 80 percent of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays passing through the clouds.
What Should I Look for in Sunscreen?
First scan the label for the words “broad spectrum” and check the ingredient list for sun blockers zinc oxide and titanium dioxide -- all indications that your formula shields you from UVA and UVB, the two types of skin cancer-causing rays. The SPF level (shoot for at least 30) measures a product’s ability to protect only against UVB, which leans to burns. But you need a sunscreen that also filters UVA rays which penetrate deeper into the skin, resulting in wrinkles and age spots. When UVA and UVB rays penetrate the skin, they alter the DNA that controls cell growth and division. Too much damage can cause cancer. UVA rays also weaken the elastic fibers and harm collagen that keeps skin smooth and youthful. It’s UVA that causes dark-pigmented “age” spots.
I Have a Lot of Moles. Am I More at Risk?
Normal moles (small brown spots or growths) are generally benign, but having more than 50 does increase your chances for skin cancer too. Every month, look for new spots and moles that have changed in shape, size or color. Go into a well-lit area like a bathroom and give the front of your body a thorough once-over. Feel your skin as you examine it. Suspicious spots can be flesh toned but scaly. Next, use a full-length mirror to scan your back side. Spend extra time on your scalp (part your hair to get a view), neck and shoulders, and don’t forget your underarms, palms and soles and the insides of your fingers and toes. Finally, use a hand mirror to check the hard-to-see areas. In rare cases melanoma can be genetic and unrelated to UV exposure.
I’ve Never Had a Skin Check; What Should I Expect?
Your appointment with your dermatology provider should take no more than 10 minutes. If he or she sees something suspicious he will biopsy it, removing all or part of the spot, and send it to a lab for analysis.
Consistency is the key to staying healthy, so check your own skin each month and if you notice anything different, be sure to schedule an appointment right away.