Protecting Your Skin
Prevent dry skin, aging and skin cancer with these sun-smart tips!
By: Rhea Seymour
There’s more to preventing sun damage than slathering on a little sunscreen every once in a while. Staying up to date on the latest research and information — and following the experts’ advice — will help keep your skin healthy and beautiful for a lifetime. Here’s what they suggest:
Pick a number. The amount of sun protection you need depends on your skin colour, ethnic ancestry and how readily you burn, says Dr. David McDaniel, assistant professor of Clinical Dermatology & Plastic Surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Everyone (even people who have darker skin or rarely burn), should choose a sunscreen with an SPF with a minimum of 15. If you burn using SPF 15, go higher.
Block out rays all day long. There are two kinds of damaging rays: UVA, which cause skin cancer, and UVB., which cause sunburns. UVA rays penetrate deeper into skin than UVBs and are also responsible for most premature aging, such as brown spots, wrinkles and sagging. “Most of the risk of burning is from 10 am to 2 pm but you get exposed to UVA rays all day long,” explains Dr. McDaniel. “People who like to be out early in the morning or late in the afternoon, such as golfers, gardeners and runners, tend to get continual exposure to UVA rays, which can even penetrate car window glass.” So while you may think you’re playing it safe by avoiding the sun at peak hours, you could be getting more skin damage than you know at other times of day. To protect against damaging UVAs, don’t use tanning beds and wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVB and UVA protection
Look for key ingredients. The number on a bottle of sunscreen is important but before you buy one, check the ingredients list to ensure that it contains one of four key ingredients: Zinc oxide, Titanium dioxide, Parsol 1789 or Helioplex. These are the ingredients which block out skin-damaging UVA rays; if one of these is not listed on the label, it may not provide adequate protection.
Apply it right. Make sure to use enough sunscreen: one ounce is what’s needed to cover the exposed body parts properly, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). It should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. Try not to miss any spots: “A lot of women protect the face but they don’t protect the chest and hands,” says Dr. McDaniel. “People often forget to protect the lower lip which gets lots of sun.” Use a lip balm or sunscreen with SPF (and remember that balm will likely stay on your lips longer).
Do a mole check. Use a mirror to examine your body periodically for skin changes, such as changes in the size, shape, colour or symmetry of a mole, which could be indicators of skin cancer. “If you’ve got a new mole or one that is bleeding, turning dark or just doesn’t look like its friends and neighbours, get it checked by a doctor,” says Dr. McDaniel. According to the AAD, the disease is almost always curable if it’s caught early.