Has quarantine got you craving the sun? Maybe you’ve been eyeing that balcony as a way to get that iconic, sun-kissed look.
Don’t be too hasty, though. Unchecked overexposure to the sun carries numerous risks, including sunburn, aging skin, and—worst of all—skin cancer. With one in five Americans developing it in their lifetime, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, so it bears thoughtful prevention. Fortunately, as long as you stick to the shade, use sunscreen properly, skip tanning, and get your yearly checkup, you’ll be safe.
1. Keep to the shade.
No matter the season or the temperature outside, overexposure to the sun puts you at risk of skin cancer. Over time, as your body absorbs the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun, your body’s elastin (fibers in the skin) becomes damaged. Eventually, this damage adds up to wrinkles, spots, sagging, and, in the worst case, skin cancer.
That doesn’t mean the sun is your enemy. It just means you should stick to the shade as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’ve got a day of activity planned, bring the shade with you by wearing clothing that covers your body. Most importantly, lather up with sunscreen.
2. Use sunscreen properly.
Even though we all grow up wearing sunscreen, most of us aren’t wearing enough. According to experts, you should apply two milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. “This is about the equivalent of a shot glass full, or about two tablespoons,” says board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD. “For the face alone, a nickel-sized dollop should be applied.” When buying sunscreen, make sure you get one that meets the following criteria:
- Bears the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation
- Is SPF 15 or higher (preferably 30)
- Protects against UVA and UVB radiation (i.e., is broad-spectrum)
3. Skip tanning.
Every time you tan, your skin receives damage. That’s true outdoors as well as indoors. Tanning beds, just like the sun, bombard your body with UV rays, the same radiation as the sun. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, a single indoor tanning session before age 35 increases your risk of skin cancer by 75 percent.
4. Get checked up annually.
Even if you live responsibly and follow the tips above, sun damage is cumulative, and you’ll want to make sure nothing menacing is happening with your skin. If you haven’t already, schedule a yearly visit with a dermatologist to check for early warning signs of skin cancer. You may even need more frequent visits if any of the following apply to you:
- You have a close relative who has had skin cancer.
- You have a suspicious mole/growth.
- You have had X-ray acne treatment.
- You have very fair skin and burn easily.
With Skin Cancer Awareness Month almost over, let’s act now to change our skin protection routines. With shade, sunscreen, no tanning, and annual checkups, we can all feel good in our own skin.