Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun
Looking for tips on staying safe in the sun? Here's an overview from our Miami dermatologists.
First and foremost, avoid sun exposure! Living in South Florida, we experience a significant amount of exposure to the harmful ultraviolet rays of sunlight. Think of your skin as a tape recorder, recording every second of sun exposure your skin receives. Walking to your car, driving during daylight hours, or just walking to lunch during your mid-day break are all sources of exposure to ultraviolet light. Over your lifetime, these changes accumulate in the skin, ultimately showing themselves as dark spots, premature aging, and changes leading to the development of skin cancer.
Using a sunblock should be as routine as brushing your teeth. You should never leave your home during daylight hours without an application of a broad spectrum sunblock. Look for one that is SPF 30 and containing ingredients that block both ultraviolet B and ultraviolet A rays. Although there is no convenient rating on the label of commercial sunblocks at this time, the Food and Drug Administration is making changes so that consumers will be able to identify sunblocks that offer the best protection for both types of ultraviolet light. A good choice at this time would be a sunblock containing a significant percentage of zinc oxide which can be in a micronized form so that it is invisible when applied tom the skin. Be sure to apply your sunblock liberally allowing time for it to be absorbed and rubbed in uniformly. If you are planning to be out of doors for more than 30 minutes, you should carry sunblock with you and reapply. It is never sufficient to apply sunblock once in the morning and expect it to offer continued protection for the rest of the day.
Wear Sun Protective Clothing
Sun protective garments include a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses that protect against both ultraviolet A and B, long sleeved pants and shirts that fit loosely, and gloves when necessary.
Protect Your Environment
Glass windows in our cars do not screen out all of the ultraviolet rays. Therefore, we are continuously exposed to ultraviolet radiation while we drive. Using an ultraviolet screening film applied to the car's windows is one way to limit one's exposure. Also, when enjoying outdoor activities such as the beach or sporting activities, using a parasol to block the sun is very helpful. Try to avoid outdoor exposures between 10 AM and 4 PM if at all possible. Also, remember that ultraviolet exposure is made worse in reflective environments such as near water or in snow or sand.
Never Use Tanning Beds
Despite mounting concern over the use of tanning beds and sun damage and skin cancer, many people continue to seek out this unwise behavior. Such purposeful ultraviolet light will lead to premature aging of the skin and increased risk of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma. If a tan is a sought after look, consider using a sunless tanner for the same effects without dangerous ultraviolet exposure.
Perform Annual Skin Exams
Everyone should perform self examinations of their skin at least once each year. Have a family member or companion examine areas that are difficult to see, such as your scalp and back. Be sure to note any sores that don't heal, moles that are changing in color, size, shape, texture or that may have begun to itch or bleed. Use the "ABCDE" criteria to evaluate your moles.
Asymmetry refers to a mole that looks different on one half than the other. Moles with irregular Borders, moles with uneven Color such as uneven pigmentation in different parts of the mole, moles with a large Diameter (typically greater than 6 mm or roughly the size of a standard pencil eraser), or moles that are Evolving or changing in the way they appear, are all signs of concern. Any mole that meets any of these criteria should be brought to the attention of your dermatologist for evaluation. Remember, skin cancer, including deadly melanoma, can often be cured if identified and treated early. Learn more about skin cancer screening.