According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed in the US each year, and that’s only counting the cases that are diagnosed; there are many more people affected by skin cancer who just don’t know it yet. If that daunting statistic doesn’t scare you enough, then I don’t know what will.
These days, society places so much emphasis on beauty and perfection that everyone does whatever they can to appear flawless. From “fake-baking” to taking one too many trips to the beach, the extent to which people go to obtain a tan is rather extreme. It’s hard to escape the growing demand to have that sun-kissed look all year round, especially with mantras like “Gym, Tan, Laundry” and “life’s better with a tan” circulating around us. Don’t get me wrong; I think being tan is great and all, but some people take it a little too far. It’s important to know when enough is enough.
Growing up, I was constantly bombarded with, “Did you pack your sunscreen?!” and “That SPF isn’t high enough!” Having a dermatopathologist for a mother has been a tad annoying at times, but it has proven to be helpful in the long run. She’s taught me so many tips about preventing skin cancer, a common killer of young adults. In light of the spring semester and the reemergence of the sun from the seemingly ever-present clouds, I’m passing these sun safety tips on to all of you! Here are six easy ways to stay safe in the sun:
1. It’s all about the SPF!
SPF, also known as Sun Protection Factor, is crucial when it comes to sunscreen. But what exactly is it? Simply put, an SPF 30 sunscreen provides 30 times the protection of no sunscreen at all. If it takes you 10 minutes to burn, it will take you five hours with SPF 30 — as long as you reapply as directed. Naturally, the higher the SPF, the better you’re protected. Look for key words on sunscreen bottles like broad-spectrum and UVA/UVB protection.
2. Make a fashion statement
Protecting yourself doesn’t have to only pertain to the apparently arduous task of applying sunscreen when you go outside. Sun safety can be as easy as wearing a cute hat or a trendy pair of sunglasses! When going to the beach, wide-brim hats are the best option because they protect more of your face and neck. Add a pair of cat-eye or Ray-ban sunglasses, and you’re good to go. But make sure your sunglasses have certified UV protection!
3. Reapply, reapply, REAPPLY!
I cannot reiterate enough how vital this tip is. When you’re spending all day at the beach, it’s likely you’ll either sweat your sunscreen off or it’ll come off in the water. No matter how high the SPF may be, you must reapply it every few hours. (Hint: When you put on sunscreen for the first time, do it indoors and before you hit the beach so it has time to be fully absorbed by your skin!)
4. Avoid the hottest hours of the day
Doctors say you should steer clear of the beach from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., because they are the hours in which the sun’s UV rays are in full throttle. I know, I know… These are prime tanning hours. My advice? Try to use an umbrella during these hours or just avoid them altogether.
5. Bake cookies, not your skin!
While tanning beds seem like a quick and easy way to get the bronze look we desire, not many girls realize the long-term repercussions they pose. Most are just concerned with the instant gratification. “Fake baking,” as many refer to it as, bombards your skin with a higher dose of UVA rays than regular sunlight does and in a short amount of time, too. Thus, the skin is damaged faster. Plus, too much exposure to UVA rays can give you wrinkles, age spots, and freckles that may develop into deadly skin cancers, such as melanomas. That’s some pretty scary stuff, if you ask me.
6. “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes”
When applying sunscreen, many forget parts of their bodies that are most susceptible to sun damage like ears, lips, feet, and shoulders. Use a lip balm with SPF in it or a sunscreen made specifically for your lips. Sunburned feet or shoulders make it painful to wear shoes or a bra, which makes it hard to rock your cute beachy outfits!
I sincerely hope you take these tips to heart and remember them during the spring and summer breaks! Respecting your skin is so important in the long run, and you should try to protect it at all costs. If you notice any irregular or new freckles or spots on your skin, you should see a dermatologist immediately. It’s better to be cautious, and with cancer, early detection is key. Just remember: tanning is okay, as long as you do it safely and gradually!
Photo credits in order of when they appear:
Sunscreen bottles: http://www.fitsugar.com/What-Does-SPF-Mean-Which-Sunscreen-Right-Your-Skin-3173539
Hat photo: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/fun-and-fit-family-11/slideshow-beach-safety
Applying sunscreen: http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/conditions-diseases/best-sunscreens#slide-1
Sun on the beach: http://stockproject1.deviantart.com/art/Sunny-Beach-14475003-187237842
Tanning bed: http://summerskinblog.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/danger-zone-tanning-beds/
Sunscreen on shoulder: http://www.theage.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/blogs/beauty-beat/coming-clean-20110202-1adpg.html