Sun Safety 101

The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up exposed areas. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and clothing with a tight weave and look for shady spots. Sunscreen works best when applied 15-20 minutes prior to heading outside, every two hours, and after getting out of the pool (towel dry and reapply). It is important to apply enough sunscreen – adults usually need about 1 ounce for good coverage. The most intense sun exposure happens between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., but since damaging UV rays can penetrate clouds, even on an overcast day, sunscreen is needed. The SPF should be at least 30 and protect against UVA and UVB rays.

Sunscreen Spray vs. Lotion

Overall, sunscreen lotion is the best way to go. Lotions offer more protection because you can tell how much you are putting on your skin. Sprays are a fire hazard and may have health risks from accidentally inhaling its fumes during application. Spray is not recommended, but if that is the only sunscreen you have on hand, make sure to spray the sunscreen onto your hands and then rub it onto your skin and face. Be sure to avoid getting the spray into your eyes or mouth.

Tanning Beds

Did you know that teens who use tanning beds before the age of 18 have an increased risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, by 85 percent? In addition to this scary statistic, 20 minutes in a tanning bed is equal to spending three hours at the beach with no sun protection – and UV light is a carcinogen, which is just as harmful as cigarette smoke. Also, having an immediate family member with melanoma, such as a parent or sibling, actually increases your risk of developing the disease.

Tanning greatly affects your appearance later in life. It causes your skin to age faster, resulting in wrinkles, age spots and leathery-looking skin.

There are safer alternatives that mirror the same tan look, except without leathery skin, unattractive moles or skin cancer risks, such as spray tans or tanning lotion.

Remember, tanning beds aren’t worth the risks. Love the skin you’re in!

Melanoma Awareness

The “ABCDE criteria” for detecting abnormal moles that require further evaluation:

  • Asymmetry: one half of the mole is unlike the other half
  • Border: an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border
  • Color: varied colors from one area to another; shades of brown, black, white, blue or red
  • Diameter: greater than the size of a pencil eraser (6 mm)
  • Evolving: any mole that looks different from the others or is changing in size, shape or color, itching or bleeding

Most experts agree that the “E” for “evolving” is the single most important sign of a worrisome mole. The “ugly duckling” rule advises that any mole that doesn’t look like the rest should be immediately evaluated. In addition to a change in color or size, other symptoms such as bleeding, crusting, itching, or pain may signal a mole becoming abnormal.