There is no such thing as a healthy tan. Any sign of tanning is the sign of potential damage. Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Yet, most skin cancers are preventable. Choosing the right sunscreen can help to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging caused by the sun.
Sun Safety: Finding the Balance
Outdoor sports and physical activity are wonderful for a person’s health and well-being, and I encourage my patients who go outside to run and swim and enjoy nature – I just want them to remember that there is a way to keep their skin healthy while doing it.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen
Choosing the right sunscreen can help to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early aging caused by the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that consumers choose sunscreens that state on the label:
• SPF 30 or higher
• Broad spectrum UVA, UVB protection. This means the sunscreen protects the skin from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB), both of which can cause cancer.
• Water resistant for up to 40-80 minutes. Sunscreens can no longer claim that they are waterproof or sweat proof.
The sun is the most intense between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so seek shade or stay indoors. Wearing protective clothes, hats and sunglasses can help protect your skin. Today, some clothes and hats have an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) built into the fabric and are available in stores and online.
When to Apply Sunscreen
Early: refers to about 20 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.
Enough: means making sure you are using enough sunscreen—usually about two tablespoons or a shot glass size for adults to cover sun-exposed areas. Remember to rub well.
Often: means every two to three hours while outdoors. Apply sunscreen every hour if you are going swimming, or more often if you are toweling off, sweating or potentially rubbing off the sunscreen; in those cases, you should reapply as soon as you do those activities.
On behalf of MGH Dermatology, we hope you enjoy the warm weather, but please remember your hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and most importantly, moderation.
A. Shadi Kourosh, MD, director of Dermatology Community Health Programs at Massachusetts General Hospital, is committed to the promotion of diversity, patient advocacy and solving public health problems for patients with skin disease. She was recently awarded the Women’s Dermatologic Society’s Award for Community Advancement for programs she founded for underserved patients in the Boston area.To learn more about the Department of Dermatology and upcoming community health events, click here.