How to Soak Up the Sun Safely
Summer should mean sunscreen – and a lot of it. Not only does
sunscreen safeguard against sunburn and skin cancer, it also protects against
early skin aging.
of all ages and ethnicities are at risk for
developing skin cancer. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin
cancer than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer
“A common misconception is that
if you have a darker skin tone you won’t get skin
cancer or sun damage,” said Lindsay Strowd, M.D., assistant professor of
dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. “Although someone with a
darker complexion has more natural skin protection, chronic ultraviolet (UV)
exposure can still result in skin cancer, appearance of dark spots, age spots
Strowd recommends looking for the terms “water-resistant 80
minutes” and “broad-spectrum” when purchasing sunscreen, and at least sun
protection factor (SPF) 30. Higher-number SPFs block more of the sun’s rays,
yet no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the rays. Sun-protective clothing
such as broad-brimmed
hats and long- sleeve shirts offer additional
Many cosmetics advertise SPF-infused products. While these
products are convenient, typical application amounts for daily use are not
enough to actually achieve the advertised SPF. One should not solely rely on
makeup containing SPF as an appropriate means to protect the skin, especially
for longer periods of sun exposure, Strowd
and the American Academy of Dermatology offer these additional tips for keeping
skin safe this summer:
- Apply sunscreen to skin
15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.
- Use at least one ounce (enough to
fill a shot glass) on the body, including a nickel-sized amount to the face.
- Check the sunscreen’s expiration
date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of less than three
years, but if it’s exposed to high temperatures it loses its effectiveness.
Never leave sunscreen in a car for this reason.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming, sweating or
toweling off – especially when the sun’s rays are strongest
between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
- For sensitive skin, look for sunscreen products that only contain
the physical sunscreen agents zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as these are
less likely to irritate the skin.
- Sunscreen should be worn even on
cloudy days, as the UV rays penetrate clouds and can still cause
Since sunscreen alone cannot fully protect the skin, it’s also
important to protect skin with clothing and accessories.
Dress the Part:
- Synthetic fibers (such as polyester and rayon) offer the greatest
- A brimmed hat that extends three inches or more all the way around
helps shade the face, neck, ears and the top of the shoulders.
- If wearing a baseball cap, apply sunscreen to ears and the back of
- Large-framed sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays offer the best
protection against cataracts and the tender skin around eyes.
- Consider garments labeled with ultraviolet protection factor
(UPF), which have been specially treated with chemical UV absorbers. UPF
clothing is widely available at sporting goods stores.
“Consistent and thoughtful sun protection is vital to preventing
skin cancer,” Strowd said. “Using proper amounts of sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing
protective clothing are essential behaviors to reducing the risk of skin
Department of Dermatology at Wake Forest Baptist will host a free skin cancer
screening on Thursday, May 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at 4618 Country Club
Road, Winston-Salem. No appointment is necessary and parking is free.