Skin cancer is serious business. We know it. All of our HintMD partners and skincare experts know it. And let’s be frank, you know it too.
Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer will account for more than 73,000 cases this year. And the fact still remains that over 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are continually diagnosed in the U.S. every year.
So, why are skin cancers so common when they’re among the most preventable types of cancer out there? Simple. Because more than 90 percent of cases are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and we just can’t help ourselves when it comes to that glorious ball of warmth in the sky. After all, nothing trumps the sunshine beating down on our toasty, tanned skin, frozen margarita in one hand, steamy novel in the other…
This may be true, but anyone whose lives have been touched by skin cancer will tell you, there’s nothing worse than the gut-wrenching feeling of being diagnosed – or having someone you love diagnosed – with this terrible disease.
We therefore pose this simple (albeit slightly wordy) question: would you rather have a) the kind of dangerous suntan that looks great for a week, but ages your skin tenfold and quickly fades, or b) the knowledge you’re doing everything you can to protect your skin and long-term health?
The answer, of course, is ‘a’, which is why the time has never been better to follow our 10 commandments of sun safety…
1. Protect Your Face Every Day
If you’re of the mindset that SPFs can sit patiently in your bathroom vanity, happy to be unused until June at the earliest, shame on you. Even on overcast days, around 80 percent of UV radiation travels through those clouds. And that’s more than our faces care to soak up, thanks very much. Try a thorough, even coverage of SkinMedica Daily Physical Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30+, Neova DNA Damage Control Silc Sheer 2.0 SPF 40 or Jan Marini Skin Research Antioxidant Daily Face Protectant SPF 33 every morning, all year round. These all contain skin-loving antioxidants, making them even better for helping to address existing sun damage and reduce further damage.
2. Up Your SPF On Vacation
Bear in mind, not all sun-protective moisturizers (especially those found in your drugstore) are photostable. This means their filters break down if they’re exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods of time, making them less effective after a few hours in the sun. For peace of mind when hanging out on the beach all day, up the battle with an all-over, broad-spectrum sunscreen containing SPF 30 or above.
“The SPF (sun protection factor) rating describes the amount of UVB rays that reach the skin,” explains Dr. Stephen Ronan of Blackhawk Plastic Surgery in Danville, California.
“This means an SPF of 30 allows 1/30th of the sun’s burning UVB rays to reach the skin, when compared to no sunscreen at all. So, your SPF should always be adjusted, depending upon your level of activity and length of sun exposure.”
SPF is only an indication of UVB protection, however, so always look for broad-spectrum sunscreens, which offer protection from both UVA and UVB radiation. There is no numerical rating for UVA protection, but anything labeled ‘broad-spectrum’ should provide equal protection against both.
3. Don’t Scrimp On Sunscreen
When it comes to slathering on SPF, the general rule of thumb is you can never apply too much. Two tablespoons should be enough to protect your entire body, but if you’re of supermodel stature, and those legs go on for days, you may need more. And remember, basal and squamous cell cancers are most frequently found on the face, ears, neck, lips and backs of the hands, so make sure you don’t miss these often-forgotten areas.
4. Apply Sunscreen Often
On that note, you should also re-apply at least every two hours and more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating a lot. This means an average 150ml (5oz) bottle of sunscreen should only last for two or three days maximum – a good excuse for stocking up on more pre-vacation beauty loot if ever we heard one.
5. Cover Up
Oversized sunglasses… wide-brimmed hats… UV protective clothing… all of these should be at the top of your sun-safety armory. The great news is wide, floppy ’70s-style hats are a big trend this summer and offer a good dose of shade to your face. Music to your ears, right? Not to mention your nose, cheeks and forehead.
6. Never Let Your Skin Burn
Getting sunburnt even once dramatically increases your risk of developing melanoma. So never let this happen. Ever. Don’t allow yourself to fall asleep in the sun and if any part of your body starts to look or feel red, seek shade and stay there for the rest of the day.
7. Avoid The Sun Between 10 a.m. And 2 p.m.
The sun is at its strongest during the middle of the day, so use this time to have a long, lazy lunch indoors or to read your book in the shade.
8. Give Tanning Booths A Wide Berth
Warning: tanning booths emit UVA (and sometimes UVB) rays just like the sun. This means they’re just as harmful, if not more so, because you’ll rarely see someone piling on the sunscreen before hopping in front of a tanning lamp for their allotted minutes of sizzling. We say avoid them like the plague. And if you do fancy faking a glow, try a self-tanning cream or spray-tan instead.
9. Check Your Skin Every Month
Cancer warning signs include itchy or bleeding spots, open sores that won’t heal, and moles or beauty marks that change size, color, texture or shape. These can appear or alter at any time of the year, so be vigilant and regularly check your skin from top-to-toe. Can’t quite reach that hard-to-see mole just underneath your right butt cheek? Then get your other half to check it for you – they can lovingly admire your booty’s firmness at the same time. Double bonus.
10. When In Doubt, Get Moles Checked Out
Skin check-ups are the best way to ensure you have healthy skin. Depending on your family’s history of skin cancer and your propensity to burn, you should have an in-office mole check every six to 12 months. And if you think a mole has changed even slightly, get it checked out immediately. When caught early, skin cancer has a 98 percent cure rate. But the key is to catch it early…
Written by: Georgia Gould