Keeping Your Skin Safe This Summer
- By Dr. Alan J. Parks
- April 24, 2016
Every year when summer approaches, I know my patients start dreaming about tank tops and sandals, fruity cocktails, summer hours, and days spent lounging by the pool. One phrase that may not be on your mind, however, is skin cancer. While we’re exposed to the sun and harmful UV rays all year round, summer is the time that exposure is at its peak. We’re outside for longer, we’re wearing less clothes to cover up, and UV rays are the strongest at this time.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and one out of every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Now that’s some pretty serious and scary stuff. But, there’s good news. Protecting yourself and avoiding these harmful UV rays can prevent more than 3 million cases of skin cancer every year. Now, I’m not telling you that you need to stay locked inside all summer long, but there are many (pretty easy) precautions you can take to help decrease your risk of contracting skin cancer. So, follow these steps to continue enjoying your summers and protecting yourself at the same time.
While outside, try to stay in the shade. If this means crossing over to the shady side of the street or even carrying an umbrella around with you to block the sun, decreasing exposure to UV rays will also decrease your risk of skin cancer. Also keep in mind that the sun is strongest from 10am – 4pm, so try to plan your outdoor activities accordingly.
Big floppy hats are totally in right now. So are big sunglasses. Buy one of each! The bigger the better. Wearing a hat will help protect your head and face (and maybe neck and shoulders depending on how big your hat is) and sunglasses will protect your eyes. Plus, with your new accessories, not only will you be protected, you’ll look great too.
I know it’s hot outside during the summer, but try to cover up as much as you can. Buy lightweight clothing that will cover your shoulders (and whatever other body parts you can manage).
Apply and reapply your sunscreen. You should get into the habit of putting on sunscreen about 15 minutes before you head outside. Make sure to wear SPF 30 or higher (50 is better) and reapply every two hours. Don’t forget your feet, hands, ears, and neck when applying your sunscreen. You should also wear a chap stick with SPF, like the COTZ Lip Balm SPF 45, to protect your lips from being burned.
Get rid of your obsession with being tan. While you may think your tan looks good now, don’t forget about how your behavior will affect what you look like in the future. Just think about what your skin will look like in 20 years from now if you continue laying in the sun everyday – wrinkly, leathery and old. Keep in mind that 90% of skin aging comes from the sun. Yes, 90%! If you want to stay looking younger for longer and have beautiful, envy-inspiring skin long after all your friends start complaining about their wrinkles, ditch the tan mindset now. Hey, in many Asian countries, the whiter your skin, the better (many Asians even use products to make their skin look whiter). They think tans look terrible. Let’s start thinking like them because pale skin is beautiful and definitely healthier!
Make sure to stay hydrated and drink a lot of water when it’s hot outside. The more you hydrate the healthier your skin will look and feel. This advice goes for all year round.
Make sure to examine your skin regularly. One reason that skin cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer is because it can be the most easily recognizable. You should be doing self-checks of all your freckles and moles on a monthly basis and if you see any spots or moles that look out of the ordinary, be sure to make an appointment to see your dermatologist right away. Learn the ABCDEs of Melanoma. These characteristics are used by dermatologists to classify melanomas. Look for these signs: Asymmetry, irregular Borders, more than one or uneven distribution of Color, or a large (greater than 6mm) Diameter, which is the size of a pencil eraser, and E is for evolving, meaning that the mole is changing.
Keeping your skin protected is important all year round, but especially in the summertime. Be smart, be cautious, and follow these very easy steps to beautiful and healthy skin in the summertime and all the time.