We all know that tanning beds and sunburn can cause skin cancer or premature aging. Even though tanned skin may look nice, it's important to remember that there is actually no safe way to get a tan.
Every time that you tan, the sun's dangerous UVA rays are damaging your skin, leaving your skin more susceptible to skin cancer and premature aging.
Skin cancer rates are rising at new and alarming rates, and we believe that one of the reasons for this is that people have a false sense of security built on a mountain of improper sunscreen use. Someone will apply sunscreen, not get burned, and think they are safe. However, that person might have chosen a sunscreen that did not protect them from UVA rays or they might not have used the sunscreen correctly (applying an improper amount or staying out too long without reapplying).
The best way to protect your skin is to be aware of the dangers of our sun, use sunscreen daily, and implement sun protection practices.
What Type of Sunscreen to Use
The most basic protection against sun damage is a daily sunscreen. You want to look for a physical sunscreen that contains zinc and titanium and will protect you from both the sun's UVB rays (burning rays) and UVA rays (aging rays).
You'll also want to be sure that your sunscreen has an SPF of at least 30 or higher and is water-resistant.
When to Use Sunscreen
We've already mentioned that you should use a sunscreen daily, but it is increasingly important when you will be spending a lot of time outside (and then reapplying when appropriate).
Some sunscreens do not work immediately, taking up to 20 minutes to finally "kick in" and protect your skin from the sun's rays. Because of this, you should apply your sunscreen 10-20 minutes before going outside.
Physical sunscreens take effect much quicker than chemical-based sunscreens, which is another reason we recommend physical sunscreen.
We recommend the Sunforgettable Brush SPF 50 from Colorescience because you can use it alone or on top of makeup and it's easy to apply on the go. It has a 50 SPF and water resistance of 80 minutes. You apply it using a brush, so there's no gooey residue on your hands.
How to Apply Sunscreen
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, most people apply only 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. Your sunscreen should thoroughly cover all of your exposed skin including your neck, ears, and hands as well as the tops of your feet and the top of your head. The average adult will need approximately one ounce to fully cover and protect their body.
When to Reapply Sunscreen
You should reapply sunscreen after about two hours in the sun or as directed on the bottle. If you are at the beach or the pool or you are doing activities that produce a lot of perspiration, you will need to reapply your sunscreen more frequently. To figure out when you need to reapply, check the water resistance of your sunscreen.
Sunscreens can be either "Water Resistant" or "Very Water Resistant," meaning that the sunscreen can withstand water for 40 minutes or 80 minutes, respectively. After those 40 or 80 minutes are up, it's time to reapply. Note that absolutely no sunscreen is "waterproof" or "sweatproof," and the FDA prohibits manufacturers from calling their sunscreens that anymore.
Also, consider reapplying after you towel yourself off as this may remove some of your sunscreen.
Other Sun Protection Techniques
Using the right sunscreen properly is a big first step in keeping your skin youthful and healthy for as long as possible; however, you can decrease your chances of sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer even better if you use other sun protection techniques alongside your sunscreen routine.
- Wearing protective, moisture-wicking clothing when possible
- Seeking shade when at the park, beach, or pool
- Avoiding tanning beds at all costs
- Wearing sunglasses and hats with brims to protect your face
- Keeping your young children (6 months or younger) out of the sun
- Scheduling your outdoors time during hours that the sun's harmful rays are less direct such as before 10:00am or after 4:00pm
Skin Cancer Prevention
As previously mentioned, rates are on the rise for all forms of skin cancer, even for the deadliest form -- melanoma. Although good sun protection habits dramatically decrease your risk for skin cancer, genetic factors can make skin cancer extremely difficult to prevent. However, skin cancer is highly treatable if detected early.
We recommend our patients use sun protection best practices and perform monthly self-examinations for any new or changing spots, sores that do not heal, or redness/swelling around the border of a spot.
We also recommend a 15-minute annual check-up with a board-certified dermatologist who will be able to tell if a spot is suspicious.