Living Well: Safety in the sun: Protecting skin from sunburn important even in winter months
Don’t let the cooler temperatures fool you into believing that protecting your skin from sunburn isn’t necessary. Follow these guidelines from skincancer.org to ensure your time in the sun is not only enjoyable, but also guilt-free and safe.
When it comes to the sun, your top priority is to prevent burns. The risk for melanoma, a serious skin cancer, doubles with five or more sunburns. With children, it takes only one blistering sunburn to double their chances of melanoma later in life.
How not to burn
• Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) 15 SPF or higher sunscreen. It makes sense that an SPF of 30 is double the protection of an SPF 15, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s really just a few percentage points stronger — 15 provides 93 percent protection and 30, 97 percent.
• When you are outdoors, be sure to cover exposed skin — like on your face and nose — with sunscreen. Snow can reflect a lot of sunlight, so if you’re outside enjoying activities such as skiing, sledding, or snowshoeing, don’t forget your sunscreen. Even 15 minutes in the intense Colorado sun can cause a burn.
• Avoid tanning booths. Though the warmth of a tanning booth may be especially appealing during the cold, winter months, they should be avoided. According to skincancer.org, just one indoor UV tanning session increases the chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent. Skin cancer rates for people age 18 to 39 have skyrocketed, and tanning beds have added to this problem.
Do regular skin checks
Besides monitoring your sun exposure, monitor your skin. Stay familiar with all the bumps, discolorations, sores, and growths on your skin. Watch for changes over time — especially on your head, neck, and arms. Skin cancer doesn’t always look the same. It can be rough or scaly, raised or flat, or an open sore. When looking, apply the ABCDE rule, and tell your doctor if a growth has any of the following features: A – asymmetry (two sides don’t match), B – border (ragged, irregular, or blurred), C – color (not the same all over), D – diameter (larger than a pencil eraser) and E – evolving (changing shape).
You can also visit a dermatologist for a thorough skin check or request one at your next annual exam.
Tan from a bottle
If you’re headed on a mid-winter beach vacation and don’t want to show up with pale, white skin, consider using a sunless tanning product once or twice per week. They come in moisturizers, towelettes, lotions, creams, sprays, gels, and mousses. Self-tanning moisturizers are the slowest, mildest form that build a glow over time with daily use. Tanning sprays provide the quickest tan.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by Memorial Regional Health — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.