Nobody really wants to think about skin cancer, which is why the Skin Cancer Foundation designated May as Skin Cancer Awareness Month. If you do think about skin cancer — before you hit the beach or pool to bask under the sun’s damaging rays — you can minimize your risk of being the one of five people who develops it by age 70.
The expert dermatologists at Specialists in Dermatology in The Woodlands and Houston, Texas, know that the best “treatment” for skin cancer is prevention. They share a few insights about why protecting your skin from the sun is so important, and how to do it so that sun protection becomes a habit for life.
The double whammy of UVA and UVB
Ultraviolet (UV) light in the form of long-wave UVA and short-wave UVB rays penetrate the atmosphere, and continue onward to penetrate your skin. Although researchers used to think only UVB was mostly responsible for skin damage, UVA exposure also damages the DNA in your skin cells.
The UVA and UVB rays not only injure your skin and change your cells’ DNA — leading to sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancer — they can harm your eyes and cause cataracts, too. In addition, UVA and UVB rays put a damper on your immune system, making it harder for your to fight off infections and illnesses — including cancer.
Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach.
In Texas, our nearly year-round sun makes skin protection even more important. You can check out our UV Index each morning to see how many unwanted rays you might get in the course of a day. But be warned: You can even get a burn and sun damage on cloudy, gray days, because white and gray reflect the UVA and UVB rays back to earth. Get in the habit of wearing sunscreen during the day whenever you’re outside, near a window, or driving — no matter what the weather or how light or dark your natural skin tone is.
Think “layers” in summer, too.
You’re already familiar with wearing layers when the weather gets chilly, so that you stay comfortable in all temperatures. Wearing long-sleeved, lightweight layers such as shirts or bathing-suit cover-ups shield you from the sun’s rays. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and a shady umbrella or tree are additional layers you can use to keep your skin safe.
Even when applying sunscreen, the “layers” rule applies. For your face, your morning routine should include:
Use a moisturizer that has a sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
Add a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, such as:
- SkinCeuticals lotions and creams, SPF 30 or SPF 50
- EltaMD® physical sunscreen, cream, and lotions, SPFs from 30 to 50
- ColoreScience® Sunforgettable® brush-ons, SPF 30
Layers 3 and 4 (optional):
If you wear makeup, make sure your foundation and powder are SPF 30, too. Or just use a tinted sunscreen and brush-on sunscreen to replace your regular makeup.
Don’t forget your arms, legs, chest, ears, etc. If any portion of your body will be exposed to the sun, be sure to slather them with a sunscreen of 30 to 50 SPF before going outdoors. If you plan to be outside for any length of time, wear sunscreen under your clothes, too, and consider buying clothing that has sun protection woven into the fabric.
And take the sunscreen along: You need to reapply it ever two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Timing is everything.
To keep your skin safe, avoid the sun whenever possible during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm. That’s when UV rays are strongest and most likely to damage your skin.
You should also schedule a thorough self-screening each month, looking over every area of your body, including between your fingers and toes. Finally, booking an annual skin-cancer screening at Specialists in Dermatology ensures that if you do have skin cancer, it’s caught early enough to be cured with a procedure in which we specialize called Mohs surgery.
To set up a pre-summer skin-cancer screening and get advice on the best type of sunscreen and sun protection for you and your family, contact us today by phone or online form.