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Four Quick Tips to Protect Yourself From the Sun

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Happy Summer friends! Your friendly neighborhood Nurse Practitioner Laura Billingsley here with some reminders on sun safety!  As we are all out enjoying summer at the lake, beach, and pool I wanted to just touch on a few tips to enjoy the sunshine safely.  Why do we care? Sunburn isn’t that big of a deal, right? Red is the new tan, right? Wrong! The UVA and UVB rays from the sun can be very damaging to your skin long-term. While one sunburn now may not impact you this summer, the effects from it may show up years down the road.  

Quick review: Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Two people die every hour from skin cancer! Skin cancer comes in three forms: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell being the most common, and melanoma being the most deadly. It only takes one blistering sunburn or five non-blistering sunburns in your life to double your risk for melanoma. Melanoma is the most common cancer in men younger than 49! Silver lining: The 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99% if the skin cancer is caught early. 

To those who care about signs of aging like age spots and wrinkles - sun safety matters! An estimated 90% of skin aging is caused by the sun. Those who protect their skin appropriately show 24% less skin aging than those that do not. 

The best ways to protect yourself and enjoy the sun safely:

1. Use a good sunscreen every day, especially when being outside for any length of time. That means applying to every part of skin that is exposed to the sun!  I would recommend a sunscreen with the protection of SPF 50 and above for outdoor activities and SPF 30 for indoor activities. Remember- you can get sun exposure in your car/office/home through the windows. Your commute to work can cause sun damage!  You can also get sun exposure when it’s cloudy. It doesn’t have to be bright and sunny to get sun damage. You should get in the habit of applying sunscreen daily! 

Brands I recommend: SunBum, Supergoop, Blue Lizard, and Elta MD. For those with sensitive skin I would recommend a mineral sunscreen: look for the active ingredient Zinc Oxide on the back of the bottle. Almost all major brands will make a mineral-based sunscreen.  Make sure to re-apply every 90 minutes and use a water-resistant sunscreen while swimming! Using a good facial sunscreen daily will also help prevent sun damage that can cause those early aging signs like wrinkles. Prone to cold sores? You need to be applying lip sunscreen when out in the sun too. Too much sun exposure will cause a cold sore outbreak which is no fun when you are at the beach! Most sunscreen brands will make lip sunscreen in the form of a lip balm.

2. Cover yourself up! This means wearing sunglasses, long sleeves, and wide brim hats. Skin cancer can even occur in the eyes! Wear those sunglasses! Men will often get skin cancer to the top of their ears. If you are a baseball cap person, make sure to slather that sunscreen on the top of your ears or just wear a wide-brimmed hat.  You can also purchase UV protected clothing on Amazon or most sporting goods stores. Not too excited about wearing long sleeves when it’s 100 degrees? Stay in the shade. Wear your sunscreen and sit under the umbrella!

3. Avoid tanning beds. This may seem like basic knowledge here but so many of my patients still use them. Tanning beds emit UV radiation that is 10-15% stronger than the sun at its peak intensity. People who use tanning beds before age 35 have a 75% increased risk of developing melanoma. More people develop skin cancer from tanning beds than those who develop lung cancer from smoking. Just let that fact sink in! To my ladies who just can’t live without a bronzy glow - use a self-tanner or go to your local airbrush tan artist.  My favorite go-to self-tanner is called Beauty by Earth Self Tanner Lotion and can be purchased on Amazon! It comes with a mitt to apply and doesn’t leave you looking orange. For my local folks who need a great airbrush tan artist - I highly recommend a group called Bronzed Babes who are located in Frisco.

4. Regular skin screenings are vital. Visit your optometrist for vision exam and have them check your eyes for melanoma! Visit your local dermatologist yearly for a skin check. Having a skin check should be a part of your normal health maintenance just like getting a physical or your teeth cleaned. Your primary care provider should be checking your skin at your physical, but I still recommend a dermatologist visit every year. 

I’m always here to answer any questions you may have. Enjoy your summer!

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