This dermatologist-approved approach will save your skin while having fun in the sun.
After the year we’ve all had, everyone could do with getting outside, breathing the fresh air, and soaking up some healing sunshine, safely. There’s a caveat with that last part, of course. Did you know that having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer for its ability to spread to other organs? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop a type of skin cancer by the age of 70 from unhealthy sun exposure.
These are concerning statistics, but also preventable ones. Sun protection is simple and hassle-free by following this threefold approach:
Step 1: Lead with Lotion
SPF comes in many forms today – creams, lotions, gels, sprays, powders. If you are going to be active and outdoors for an extended period of time, a broad spectrum lotion or gel should be your base layer because it’s easier to ensure you apply an adequate amount evenly (most of us use a quarter of what was tested in the lab to be effective). As a general rule, use a quarter-size dollop of lotion for every part of your body, and don’t forget your feet, neck, and ears. Most creams are water-resistant for about 80 minutes or so, and unless you are sweating excessively, you should be protected from the sun’s UV rays for several hours.
Step 2: Re-Apply with Spray
Sprays offer decent protection, but not as your first line of defense. Most people only spray themselves for a few seconds, and this might not provide adequate protection. It’s also difficult to use spray around the face and ears, areas that also need protection from UV rays. Apply your lotion at home, pop a spray in your bag, touch it up after a few hours, and you are good to go.
Step 3: Seek Shade
Unless you coat yourself in zinc oxide, which physically blocks the sun’s rays but isn’t easy to apply and makes you look like Casper, your skin will still get some degree of sun exposure – even with a high SPF. This is why an umbrella should also be in your sun protection arsenal if you are going to be spending a considerable amount of time in the sun. No shade structure can completely shield you from UV radiation; it’s not just the direct rays you need to worry about but those reflected off the sun, water, and even snow in winter. That’s where your SPF comes in!
Each of these steps is not enough on its own to protect you from the sun’s damaging rays, but as part of a three-part strategy, you can breathe easy and enjoy the summer safely.
Dr. Athena Kaporis is a dermatologist with White Plains Hospital Physician Associates – Westchester Dermatology and Mohs Surgery in Mount Kisco. For information or to make an appointment, call Dr. Kaporis’ office at 914-242-2020.