Taking care of our skin is important. No matter the type of weather, rays from the sun still affect our skin. As a result, it is important to use skin protection all year round. Damage from the sun can have lasting effects on our bodies and health. While non-melanoma (Basal cell carcinomas account for 80% Ref 1) skin cancer is one of the most common (Ref 2) and curable cancers, it  isn’t something to take lightly. Basal cell carcinomas as well as other damage to your skin can be easily prevented by applying sunscreen daily and wearing UV protective clothing. Here are some key tips on how you can better protect your skin moving forward.

How should sunscreens be applied? (Ref 3)

  • Apply the sunscreen at least 20 to 30 minutes before you go outdoors, whenever you will be exposed for 30 minutes or more.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours while you are outdoors, even if the product is labeled “all-day.” If you get wet or perspire heavily, reapply sunscreen more frequently.
  • Cover all exposed areas, including your ears, lips, face and back of your hands.
  • Don't skimp; apply a generous layer. Smooth it on rather than rub it in. A rule of thumb is that 45 ml (a shot glass) of sunscreen is needed to cover all exposed skin to attain the stated level of protection.
  • If wearing makeup, sunscreen should be applied underneath the makeup.
  • f you wait to apply sunscreen until you hit the beach, you may already be perspiring, and moisture makes sunscreens less effective.

The Best Sunscreen Ingredient to Look For (Ref 4)

Since UVA and UVB rays are both harmful, you need to find sunscreens that protect against both.
Ingredients to look for:

  • Stabilized a avobenzone
  • Escamsule (a.k.a. MexoryITM)
  • Oxybenzone
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Zinc Oxide

What type of sunscreen should I use?  (Ref 5)

The sunscreen you choose is a matter of personal choice, and may vary depending on the area of the body to be protected. Available sunscreen options include lotions, creams, gels, ointments, wax sticks and sprays.

  • Creams are best for dry skin and the face.
  • Gels are good for hairy areas, such as the scalp or male chest.
  • Sticks are good to use around the eyes.

Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, be sure to apply it generously to achieve the UV protection indicated on the product label.  

Does Sunscreen expire? (Ref 6)

Sunscreens are designed to remain at original strength for up to three years. This means that you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. Some sunscreens include an expiration date — a date indicating when they're no longer effective. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date. If you buy sunscreen that doesn't have an expiration date, write the date of purchase on the bottle and be sure to throw it out within three years. Also, discard sunscreen that has any obvious changes in color or consistency.

Other ways to protect your skin (Ref 7)

In addition to wearing sunscreen, dermatologists recommend taking the following steps to protect your skin and to find skin cancer early:

  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m (some suggest until 4pm). If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, you may wish to use a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early.

References:

  1. Harmful Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/uv/harmful.html

  2. Cancer.net Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma): Statistics https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/skin-cancer-non-melanoma/statistics

  3. Cleveland Clinic - Sun Damage: Protecting Yourself - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/5240-sun-damage-protecting-yourself

  4. Aynbinder, T. Do I really need to wear sunscreen every day? I work in an office, and I'm inside until at least 6–7pm during the week. https://www.quora.com/Do-I-really-need-to-wear-sunscreen-every-day-I-work-in-an-office-and-Im-inside-until-at-least-6–7pm-during-the-week

  5. SCHAUMBURG, Ill. Sunscreen 101: Dermatologists answer burning questions about sunscreens https://www.aad.org/media/news-releases/sunscreen-101-dermatologists-answer-burning-questions-about-sunscreens

  6. Gibson, L. Is sunscreen from last year still good? When does sunscreen expire? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sunscreen-expire/faq-20057957

  7. Sunscreen FAQs https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs

  8. Epstein, J. et al UVA & UVB https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb

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