As the weather warms up, we are all excited to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. My patients often ask me how they can maintain their active, outdoor lifestyle while keeping their skin safe. I definitely think we can all enjoy the fun that summer has to offer if we take several important steps to protect our skin. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer with 3.5 million new cases of basal and squamous cell carcinomas diagnoses in the United States each year. Melanoma, the more deadly form of skin cancer, will account for over 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015. Ultraviolet rays from the sun are a known carcinogen, an agent directly involved in causing cancer.
First, make sure you apply sunscreen to all exposed skin at least 30 minutes before leaving the house. I advise my patients to apply sunscreen before getting dressed for a more even application. Make sure to select a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 with broad spectrum coverage. Broad spectrum coverage means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
You want to also look for a sunscreen that is water resistant. It is important to apply enough sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you apply 1 oz of sunscreen per application, which is about the size of a shot glass. It is also important to reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours or right after swimming or excessive sweating.
Try to avoid being outside between 10 AM and 4 PM, as UV exposure is the highest during those times. When outside, seek shade as much as possible.
In addition to sunscreen, wear protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV blocking lenses. In general, bright or dark-colored clothes reflect more UV radiation than light-colored clothes. Tightly woven fabrics offer better protection than looser weaves. There are special sun protective clothes that have ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) ratings. The higher the UPF, the better. You want to look for UPF of 30 or above. There are also laundry additives that can add UPF to regular clothes. It can add a UPF of 30, but it is important to remember that it cannot be used on synthetic fabrics, like polyester and nylon.
Do not tan or burn! A tan is a sign of skin injury. The skin darkens as a response to DNA damage in cells. A single blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence can more than double the risk of developing melanoma.
Don’t forget to protect children from the sun. Infants under the age of 6 months should be kept out of the sun. Their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. Once they turn 6 months, it is safe to use sunscreen on them.
Get out there, enjoy your summer, and protect your skin!