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Sun Protection Tips for Skin Cancer Awareness

Close-up portrait of smiling female by the sea.At Rebecca Fitzgerald MD Dermatology, your skincare and overall health are our top concerns. While we are able to treat several conditions that are caused by sun damage, the primary and most effective way to prevent potentially permanent and life-threatening conditions is with prevention.

Here are a few sun protection tips that will help make for a fun summer and help prevent issues such as sunburns and melanoma.

Clothing

Sunscreen and sunblock have their places to prevent sun damage. However, a barrier to sunlight reaching the skin, such as a long sleeve shirt or long skirt/pants, is incredibly effective at blocking the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) radiation from damaging your skin cells. If the temperature permits, opt for clothing that covers most of your body. Many lighter-weight materials such as cotton and linen still stay cool but offer the same UV protection.

Sunscreen

Although it is one of the easiest ways to help protect your skin from UV radiation, there are still a few things to look out for when selecting which sunscreen you use and how you use it. Be sure to choose a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or above and one that is also broad-spectrum (this protects against UVA and UVB rays).

Because chemical sunscreens do not become effective immediately, apply 20-30 minutes before your activity. Remember to apply everywhere, even areas such as the lower sides of arms where the sun does not directly hit (the UV radiation can reflect off of water and other surfaces), ears, and especially the tops of your ears if they are not covered by hair, bald spots, lips, back of neck. Also, be sure to use enough and reapply often. 

Makeups may show an SPF – it’s not enough. Give yourself some time for the sunscreen to “sink in” before applying makeup to avoid pilling. “Patting” or using a sponge to apply makeup over sunscreen will help prevent pilling. 

Sunblock

Sunblock is very similar to sunscreen, but also has titanium dioxide and zinc oxide added. Not only is some of the UV radiation absorbed by any chemicals in the sunblock, but these two added compounds also help by reflecting a lot of the radiation before it reaches the skin. This can be more effective than sunscreen alone but is not as transparent. One tip in using a mineral sunblock is to use a tinted version or make your own by adding a tiny amount of makeup that’s a slightly darker shade. Skin Medica makes skin-nourishing mineral sun protection in a tinted and non-tinted version.