The expert dermatologists and skin specialists at Specialists in Dermatology — located in Houston, Texas, and The Woodlands, Texas — stress the importance of sun protection and regular skin cancer screenings for everyone. Below are some of the factors that go into choosing a method of sun protection to keep your skin healthy and cancer-free.
Choose the right SPF
All sunscreens are labeled with a sun protection factor (SPF) number. The SPF refers to the degree of protection that the product offers from the sun’s rays. However, a higher SPF doesn’t necessarily mean that your skin will stay safe.
A product with an SPF of 30 allows 3% of UV rays to hit and be absorbed by your skin, while an SPF of 50 only allows 2%, which is a difference of 50%. The problem is that when you choose a lotion with a higher SPF, you may feel that you’re getting more protection and therefore don’t need to apply the sunscreen as frequently.
Though an SPF30 is supposed to allow you 30 times more sun time than unprotected skin, and SPF50 should allow you 50 times more sun time, that’s just an approximation. You might start burning a lot sooner than that. You also lose protection if you sweat or swim, which washes off your sunscreen.
Everyone should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. If you’re light-skinned, go for 50. If you’re extremely fair or have albinism, ask your dermatologist for an even higher SPF.
Go for broad-spectrum protection
Some sunscreens only protect you from UVB rays, which are the rays that are most frequently associated with skin cancer. The UVB rays are also the rays that are most responsible for burning your skin.
However, researchers have learned that UVA rays aren’t as benign as they once thought. The UVA rays damage your skin, cause wrinkles and dark spots, and can also lead to burning. Any kind of skin damage — including that caused by UVA rays — increases your risk for skin cancer.
In addition to buying a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, you need to look for the words “broad-spectrum protection” on the label. Broad-spectrum protection keeps both UVA and UVB rays off your skin, to minimize your risk for tanning, burning, and skin cancer.
Choose safe ingredients
Sunscreens, like everything you place on your skin, are absorbed into your bloodstream. That’s why it’s important to choose a high-quality sunscreen that uses safe ingredients while maximizing suIf you have light or freckled skin, you’re probably well aware that you need to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. You burn easily, and you may have already had a skin cancer removed or have a blood relative who had skin cancer. But even if your skin is dark and you’ve never burned, the Texas sun’s UVA and UVB light can damage your skin cells and change their DNA, putting you at risk for skin cancer.
n protection. Ingredients to avoid include:
Instead, look for mineral-based sunscreens that act as physical barriers to the sun, including:
- Titanium dioxide
- Zinc oxide
Minerals deflect the sun’s rays so they never penetrate your skin. In contrast, chemical sunscreens absorb the rays and convert them to heat, which your skin then expels. Our dermatologists recommend medical-grade, high-quality sunscreens from SkinCeutials, EltaMD®, and ColoreScience®.
Use your sunscreen the right way
It doesn’t matter what SPF your sunscreen is or how broad its protection, if you don’t use it properly. You must always apply about an ounce of sunscreen to cover your entire body. Reapply it every two hours.
Choose a waterproof sunscreen to minimize its loss when you swim or sweat. However, after swimming or sweating you should still reapply your waterproof sunscreen.
Don’t rely on sunscreen
Particularly if you’re fair or if you plan to spend a lot of time in the sun, no sunscreen is going to protect you from being burned and damaging your skin. Other tips to protect your skin include:
- Stay out of the sun from 10 am-4 pm
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Wear a light shirt or long skirt and pants
- Wear clothing with an SPF, too
- Stay in the shade
- Stay hydrated
Get the best type of sun protection for your skin type and needs by contacting the experts at Specialists in Dermatology. Phone the office nearest you today, or fill out our convenient online scheduling form.