7 Simple Tips for Protecting Your Skin this Summer
Our skin is a remarkable thing. Think about it—it keeps us together, protects our organs and works hard to keep the bad stuff from getting into our bodies. Given all your skin does for you, it’s probably time to start doing more to protect it.
Sunscreen and sunglasses can
go a long way to protect you
from the sun's harmful rays.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but there are some really simple ways we can prevent it - in addition to slathering on layers of sunscreen at the beach.
But first, a little Skin Cancer 101.
There are three different types of skin cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma. While the first two types of skin cancer, which are the most common, don’t typically spread to other areas of the body, any form of skin cancer can still cause serious damage to your body if not treated early on. Skin cancer also grows at a frighteningly rapid rate.
While there are many different causes of skin cancer, the most common factor is ultraviolet light exposure, which can come from either the sun or tanning booths. “The best way we know to prevent the development of skin cancer is adequate sun protection,” said Robin B. Scheiner, M.D., a Crozer-Keystone dermatologist at Brinton Lake Dermatology.
Additionally, overexposure to high levels of radiation, immunosuppression and even some occupations that are in frequent contact with harmful chemicals, oils and soot (such as miners and farmers) can contribute to the development of skin cancer. The chances of developing skin cancer only get worse if you have light skin, a history of severe sunburn or any other risk factor.
What can you do to prevent skin cancer?
Since you can’t change certain risk factors, such as family history or the color of your hair, there are ways you can reduce your chances of skin cancer, such as:
- Limit Sun Exposure: Avoid long exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays, which are particularly strong between ten a.m. and four p.m. Your exposure to the sun accumulates over time, so try to schedule outdoor activities during other times of the day. If you’re out on a sunny day, try to seek shade whenever possible.
- Wear Sunscreen: A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 should be applied every day, all year round. Why? Because the sun can still penetrate through the clouds on overcast days. To best protect your skin, apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside and re-apply every two hours.
- Avoid Tanning Booths: Your chances of developing skin cancer dramatically increase with each and every indoor tanning session. We’ll let the stats speak for themselves.
- Wear the Right Gear: If you burn easily, wear a tightly woven long-sleeved shirt, pants and wide-brimmed hat. You should also wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
- Check Your Medication: Some medicines and antibiotics may increase sensitivity to sunlight. You may need to take extra precaution if necessary.
- Learn the Signs of Skin Cancer: Early detection of cancer can greatly increase your chances of recovery, so familiarize yourself with the symptoms.
- Check Your Skin Regularly: Learn where your moles are and what they look like so you can observe any changes in appearance, shape, color, etc. The best way to check is in a bright room with a full-length mirror. A hand-held mirror is helpful for checking areas that are hard to see.
“Even if you follow those guidelines, you may need to have your Vitamin D level measured by your family doctor or take a Vitamin D supplement,” said Dr. Scheiner. “You may also consider over-the-counter nutritional supplements, such as Heliocare, which may provide some additional protection as well - but don’t assume that offers all the protection you need.”
Ask your primary care physician or dermatologist about testing your Vitamin D level and scheduling a skin cancer screening.