It’s not too soon to start protecting your skin from the effects of the sun’s rays. In fact, About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. That exposure can happen any time of year but is especially important if we’re outdoors more often in spring and summer.
In addition to preventing problems such as cancer and eye damage, protecting yourself from the effects of sun exposure also helps avoid skin spots and “leathery” skin that can make us look aged.
There are easy ways you can maintain your skin health by protecting yourself from sun while still enjoying the warmer months.
See your dermatologist. Early detection is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from skin cancer. You can do that by having a dermatologist check your skin checked for growths, unusual spots or skin changes every year with an annual, full-body exam, from your scalp to between your toes. (Remember to remove all makeup and nail polish!)
If your dermatologist sees anything of concern, they’ll discuss whether you might need something to be removed and sent for biopsy.
Wear sunscreen. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher even on cloudy days. It’s important to apply sunscreen generously (about the amount of a shot glass) every two hours to all uncovered skin—including your nose, ears, neck, hands, feet and lips—but more often if you’re sweating or swimming. People with less or no hair should apply sunscreen to their heads, too. (Check with your child’s pediatrician for the safest sun protection for kids six months old or
The FDA highlights amplified sun exposure risks for specific people. Those with fair skin and light eyes, and blond, red, or light brown hair need to be particularly protective of their skin.
There also are heightened risks for people who already have been treated for skin cancer and/or have a family member who has had skin cancer. Let your dermatologist know what medications and vitamins you’re taking. Some medicines can cause sun sensitivity.
Cover up. Sunscreen doesn’t cover everything, and even hair can suffer damage from the sun’s rays, hats are a sunshine essential. Look for wide-brim hats that cover your ears and neck.
It’s also important to protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light from outdoor or artificial light, especially if you have a light skin tone and light eyes. Even sunlight that reflects off sand, water (and snow and ice) increases exposure to UV radiation and increases your risk of developing eye problems, as well as damage to the eyelids, skin around the eyes, cornea and lens.
Look for sunglasses that provide 100% UV or UV400 protection, or block both UV-A and UV-B rays. Pair them with your hat for maximum coverage every time you’re outside.
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. However, there are easy ways to help prevent the likelihood of skin cancer by consistently protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful rays and seeing a dermatologist regularly to detect changes in our skin over time.
Raman Kevin Madan, MD is a board-certified dermatologist at Northwell Health Physician Partners Dermatology at Huntington.