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Sun Protection for your Skin

Tips for Protecting Your Skin, Safely

Spending time in the sun is one of the best ways to harness vitamin D. In fact, doctors recommend exposing your skin to direct sun rays so they can activate your natural ability to create vitamin D. The catch? Direct exposure also leaves you at risk of skin problems such as premature aging, sunburns, and in the worst cases, can increase the risk of skin cancer

So, how can we protect our skin while also enjoying the benefits that come with sunlight exposure?

Using Sunscreen

Slathering on sunscreen is one of the most common options for protecting your skin. There is no reason why you shouldn’t grab a hat and go out in the sun as long as you’ve applied a protective sunscreen layer on your skin. Sunscreen protects your skin against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which are responsible for sunburns, age spots, skin cancer, wrinkling, and other long-term effects on your skin.

Lathering up on sunscreen protects your skin from these rays, allowing you to spend time in the sun safely. How does this happen? There are two types of sunscreen: chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen.

Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing UV rays before they penetrate the skin and damage your skin cells. The active ingredients of this chemical filter form a protective film that acts as a barrier, absorbing the rays and converting them into heat before releasing them away from the skin. Common active ingredients include aminobenzoic acid, avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone. 

There have been a few concerns raised in the media about oxybenzone, but research shows “no conclusive evidence that oxybenzone is harmful to humans,” according to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing

Mineral sunscreen are essentially physical blockers that sit atop your skin and reflect UV rays away from the skin. Unlike chemical sunscreen, they don’t penetrate the skin. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are common active ingredients. These tend to be thicker, and not always the best choice for oily or acne-prone skin.

Using Sun Protective Clothing

Sun protective clothing offers extra protection for people who are more sensitive to the sun, such as those with fair skin, children, and people who are on medication, as some drugs can increase sun sensitivity. Such apparel comes with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) ratings indicating its effectiveness against both UVA and UVB rays.  

Sun Protection For Hair 

While most people will rarely go out in the sun without their favorite sunscreen, research shows that excessive exposure to UV rays can be hard on your hair too, fading or drying out your hair and causing breakage. Proper sun safety means protecting yourself from head to toe by investing in sunscreen for your scalp and hair in addition to your go-to-sunscreen and facial Sun Protection Factor (SPF). 

Spray or powder sunscreen will protect your scalp from sunburn, while formulated sunscreen designed for hair and scalp will offer total protection for both. You can also invest in a good hat for a much needed physical barrier.

Sun Protection for Eyes

UV radiation also poses serious damage to your eye health and is associated with an increased risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration (which causes vision loss), corneal sunburn, and conjunctival cancer. That said, you can still enjoy the great outdoors by investing in proper eye protection. Some simple strategies to protect your eyes include:

  • Wearing sunglasses and/or shades that block 99% to 100% of UV rays
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat with no holes
  • Using prescription glasses or contact lenses with UV filters

What to Look for When Buying Sun Protective Gear

  • When choosing sunscreen, go for a brand that has a high SPF rating: at least 30. Always remember to apply liberally to increase its effectiveness, and reapply every two hours. 
  • Also, consider using a broad-spectrum brand as this will offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. If you have very sensitive skin or are shopping for your kids, consider choosing mineral sunscreen as its ingredients are milder.
  • For sun-protective clothing, look for a high UPF rating as this indicates better protection against UV radiation.
  • Sunglasses that offer 100% protection against UV rays are also best, while wide hats made of tightly woven fabric will offer increased protection for your eyes, hair, and scalp.

Your skin plays a vital role by protecting all your internal organs. Taking simple measures to protect yourself from the sun before heading out can help prevent cancer, sunburns, and lots of other skin problems. Do you have more questions on skin care that we can help with?  Contact us!

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Check skin for signs of damage and cancer

How to Check Your Skin for Signs of Cancer and Skin Damage

1 in 5 Americans are likely to develop skin cancer by age 70. A simple skin check routine can help you have a good outcome. Read on to learn more about how and when you should check your skin for signs of damage or cancer.

The skin may seem like a relatively thin layer, but did you know that this largest organ in your body makes up roughly 16% of your weight? With somewhere around 1.6 trillion skin cells (depending on your size), distributed across three layers, it’s your important first line of defense against the elements—including the damaging effects of the sun. 

And the sun can do real damage. Each year, millions of people in the United States are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer. The most common types are basal and squamous skin cancers; Melanoma, though less common, is considered more dangerous than the others.

Sadly, more than 2 people die from skin cancer in the U.S. every hour. The good news is that skin cancers are also highly treatable—when recognized in the early stages. “When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%.” – SkinCancer.org

This is why we always emphasize learning the right way to check your skin for signs of cancer—and encourage you to make it a regular practice!

How Should I Check My Skin for Signs of Damage and Cancer?

Checking your skin for signs of damage or cancer does not require any expertise or medical tests. The best way to do a skin self-exam is by examining your skin in a well-lit room. Use a hand-held mirror to look at those areas that are hard to see, or have your spouse, family member, or friend check you.

The easiest time to carry out a skin checkup is after taking a shower or a bath. If you are checking your skin for the first time, go carefully and slowly; aim to learn the pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes, or any other noticeable marks on your skin. You might even make notes or take photos so you can check for changes over time, particularly if you see any areas that might be of concern. 

The American Cancer Society does not provide guidelines on how often to check your skin. You should, however, do frequent checks if you are exposed to any risk factors associated with skin cancer such as regular increased sun exposure or a history of skin cancer in your family.

How to Check Your Skin Using a Mirror

The steps below will help you examine almost every inch of your skin while using a hand mirror (which will help you get a closer look, especially at harder-to-see spots):

  1. Place the mirror in front of you and check your face, ears, neck, chest, and belly.
  2. Next, check your arms, including the underarm, the part between your fingers, and the tops and palms of your hands.
  3. While sitting down, examine the fronts of your thighs, toes and skin between them, calves, genital area, tops and bottoms of your feet, and toenails.
  4. You might want to hold onto something for balance while you use the mirror to check your buttocks, backs of your thighs, lower and upper back, and the back of your ears and neck.
  5. Lastly, check your scalp by parting the hair using a comb or hair dryer

What Are the Signs of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer can occur on any part of your body, but areas most-often exposed to the sun are at highest risk. Having a blemish or a mole on your skin does not mean that your skin is damaged or has cancer. These signs, however, suggest a visit to the dermatologist:

  • A wart-like growth
  • Any new or irregular spot on the skin
  • Any mole that is slowly changing in size or color
  • A scaly red patch that may be bleeding
  • Any bleeding sore or any sore that does not heal after several weeks

What Are the Major Ways of Preventing Skin Damage and Cancer?

The major causes of skin cancer and skin damage are too much exposure to ultraviolet rays from either the sun or tanning beds. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), you can protect yourself by:

  • Staying in the shade
  • Wearing clothes that cover most of your skin
  • Wearing a hat that will shield your face, ears, and neck
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen
  • Wearing sunglasses that protect both UVA and UVB rays
  • Avoiding tanning beds, booths, sunbeds, and sunlamps.

Prevention of any disease is always better than cure. Now that you know how to check your skin for signs of damage and cancer, you can give yourself an edge by checking it often. All the different types of skin cancer are easily treated or controlled at their early stages. So, if you notice any signs that resemble skin cancer, don’t wait; seek medical attention.