We think by now it is an understatement that snow weary Midwesterners are ready for a little fun in the sun! At Skin Speaks: Advancements in Dermatology we want to educate and protect you against the most preventable risk factor of getting skin cancer, a sunburn. While we want everyone to get the most enjoyment out of our beautiful Minnesota summer weather, a little care and planning will go a long way in preventing burns, premature aging and skin cancer.
First let’s dispel a few myths:
1) You don’t need sunscreen
Sunscreen prevents harmful UV rays. If you are going to be outside for longer than 20 minutes certain lighter skin types will start to burn. If you normally tan and feel that sunscreen is not necessary that is also false. A tan is another type of visible injury to the skin as well. There is also the myth that you should tan in a tanning bed before a vacation in a warm weather climate; however, these types of tanning are provided by high intensity UVA rays. This will darken the skin quickly but not offer protection from UVB rays. People of all skin types, including skin of color, require sunscreen as everyone is at risk to develop skin cancer. One famous example is Bob Marley who died at age 36 of an aggressive melanoma.
There are many types of sunscreens on the market. Keep trying different brands until you find a great fit for you. At Skin Speaks we recommend Neutrogena Ultra Dry Touch and CeraVe sunscreen which is a chemical free, transparent, physical blocker. Our clinics and spa also offer cosmetically elegant sunscreen options for the face that can be worn under make up, as well as Intellishade tinted sunscreen which is a staff favorite.
2) The higher the SPF the less I need to reapply
As a general rule sunscreen products need to be reapplied every 2 hours or if you are getting out of the water. This holds true even if the product states it is water or sweat proof.
3) I can use my sunscreen from last year
Not true! If you are using your sunscreen the way it is intended you should not be carrying it over from year to year. Chemically the sunscreen will break down over time and the bottles should have an expiration date, so be sure to take note of this. Also, do not store your sunscreen in a heated car or other warm environment.
4) Sunscreen isn’t safe
The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation both say sunscreen is safe and effective. There are claims suggesting otherwise and are based on questionable science, the Skin Cancer Foundation says. Researchers who studied more than 1,600 adults over 10 years found that those who applied sunscreen each day reduced their risk of melanoma significantly.
5) I don’t need to apply sunscreen on cloudy days
Not true! UV rays are able to penetrate through the clouds which can cause an unexpected burn and UV damage to the skin. Also, be aware of the environment that you are in outdoors as snow, water and sand also have reflective properties and intensify the UV rays’ effect. If you are driving in your car you should be applying sunscreen as the damaging UV rays will penetrate through the window. During skin exams we are able to see notable signs of sun exposure, aging and skin cancers on the left side of the face.
While this list is not exhaustive, providing you with a few more helpful hints will go a long way in your skin’s overall health and well being:
~The proper amount of sunscreen to apply is about 1 ounce or the size of a shot glass
~Don’t forget the commonly missed sites like you ears and scalp!
~If you are outdoors and your shadow is shorter than you-seek shade
~You will get adequate amounts of sun for your vitamin D with incidental sun exposure
~The recommended SPF is between 30-50. No matter the SPF you still need to reapply
~People who use indoor tanning beds increase their risk of acquiring melanoma by 75%
~Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection
When discussing sunscreen and sun safety with our patients, we also recommend they watch a short video on YouTube called “Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me.” It will hopefully help you understand the impact of skin cancer and encourage consistent use of sunscreen and sun protective measures for you and your loved ones.