With summer on our heels, appropriate, seasonal skin care is important to make sure your skin is happy and healthy. One way to make sure you are staying skin safe is to avoid peak hours in the sun. The sun is typically at its peak from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and the sun is at its brightest and hottest from noon to 3 p.m. If you have to be outside during these hours, try to minimize exposing your skin to the sun. Carrying an umbrella or wearing a hat are simple ways to help block those pesky UV rays.
Remember to wear sunscreen on the parts of your body not protected by clothing. I recommend a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. I advise using one ounce of sunscreen over the body at a time. Keep in mind that most sunscreens do break down in the sun, so remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours – and more frequently if you’re in the water. For makeup wearers, many types of foundation have SPF 15-20, but that does not replace using a broad-spectrum SPF of 30 or better. Instead, facial sunscreen should be applied every day, as UV rays come through glass and clouds. Even if you won’t be directly in the sun, still apply sunscreen every day. If you’re driving with your windows closed, you are still getting exposure to UVA rays, which is why we see more left-sided skin damage.
Many people enjoy the convenience of spray-on sunscreen, but it is not always as effective because people tend to apply it unevenly. When people use spray, it is easy to inadvertently miss spots, leaving skin susceptible to sunburn. If you apply the spray while outside, the wind could pick up and take away part of the spray as you try to apply it to your skin. In contrast, sunscreen lotion allows for the most even coverage.
There are two kinds of sunscreen: mineral and chemical. Mineral sunscreens contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These create a protective layer on top of the skin and are the best way to protect yourself from the sun. These sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect damaging UV rays. The downside is that many mineral sunscreens are difficult to rub in and may leave a whitish paste on the skin. However, they are hypoallergenic and are a good choice for individuals with sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens are acceptable and often work just as well as mineral sunscreens. The only downside is the possibility for allergic reactions. Make sure your sunscreen hasn’t expired! Understanding Skin Cancer
Skin cancers are fairly common though many are avoidable. One out of five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer by the age of 70.
The different forms are:
Basal cell carcinoma. This often appears as a pink bump on the skin that does not heal over several months. The basal cell carcinomas (BCC) often develop on areas of skin most prone to be exposed to the sun, including the face, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. As the most common form of skin cancer, approximately 3.6 million cases are diagnosed in the United States each year. While BCCs can be locally destructive as they spread without treatment, death is very rare.
Squamous cell carcinoma. This often appears as a hard nodule on the skin that does not heal over several months. Much like basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas are likely to appear on areas of the skin repeatedly exposed to the sun, such as ears, face, scalp, neck and hands. Wrinkles and age spots are other places of the skin to watch for squamous cell carcinomas. It is the second most common form of skin cancer, with approximately 1.8 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. If not detected and treated early, this form of skin cancer can be deadly: Approximately 15,000 deaths occur each year.
Melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It often appears as an irregular dark spot on the skin that evolves over time. This form of skin cancer often resembles irregular/atypical moles on the body and can even arise from them. Melanomas can be found anywhere on the skin, even if it is not an area of the body typically exposed to UV rays. However, severe sunburns can increase your risk of melanomas. On average, more than 200,000 cases of melanoma can occur.
If you suspect any form of skin cancer, please contact your primary care physician or dermatologist as soon as possible.
Skin is one of the most important organs of the body. You can create a baseline inventory for your skin by checking your skin at home every month and taking note of any new or evolving skin lesions that do not look like your others. If you can, take pictures of any changes in your skin. These can often be shared with your doctor to determine if you need to come in for an exam.
For darker skin, pay special attention to growths on the palms and soles. Any dark streaks on the nails should be evaluated.
Monthly evaluations of the skin are a great way of making sure your skin is happy and healthy.
Tola Oyesanya, MD, is a dermatologist with the Mid-Atlantic Medical Group. She sees patients at the Kaiser Permanente Towson and Abingdon medical centers.
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