Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunscreen and Beyond! Dermatologist-Approved Tips for Sun Safety

June 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

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When spending any time outdoors, sun protection is an absolute must to prevent skin cancer, the most widespread cancer in the United States. Research suggests as few as five sunburns over a lifetime double the chances of getting melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer.

Along with attempting to sidestep basal and squamous cell cancers as well as melanoma, unprotected encounters with the sun may cause ocular cancer and other eye damage, painful sunburns, and premature skin aging and wrinkling.

Dr. Scott DunbarDr. Scott Dunbar from Schweiger Dermatology Group advises that sunscreen is a boater’s best defense against potentially deadly and unwelcome effects of the sun both from overhead and as reflected off the water and the often-white fiberglass vessels. He advocates for a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 even on cloudy, overcast days. “I normally recommend that patients wear the highest SPF that doesn’t feel uncomfortable,” he says. “You’re going to put it on; might as well use the good stuff!”

Checking labels is your best approach to safer sun care, counsels Dr. Dunbar. U.S. Food and Drug Administration rules for sunscreen labeling have changed over the past few years, so consumers should be purchasing products identified as Broad Spectrum SPF ___,  meaning they offer ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation protection (SPF alone only covers UVB protection).

Buying the right sunscreen is only part of your sun defense. “The key is to put on enough,” says Dr. Dunbar. “Use a shot glass size to cover your body, and then you have to reapply every two hours or each time you come out of the water.”

Sunscreen is just one weapon in a boater’s battle versus the consequences of sun exposure. Hats protect hair from the drying and color-draining effects of environmental exposure, and Dr. Dunbar sings their praises for added skin protection, especially for his patients whose hair has thinned a bit since their younger years. “But if you can’t wear a hat, sunscreen on a bald scalp works great,” he says.
Children need sun fortification as well, according to the doctor. “Please don’t let your kids get sunburned. Even one sunburn dramatically increases the risk of life-threatening skin cancers.” He continues, “You can usually start to use sunscreen around six months, but check with your pediatrician.”

As the sun’s rays are at their peak between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, plan your outdoor activities with little ones before or after that window of time if possible. Supplement sunscreen for little ones (and those of all ages at greater risk) with products such as sun tents and sun-safe apparel.

Ultraviolet Protection Factors (UPF) is a designation on clothing labels that’s similar to the SPF measuring system for sunscreens. According to the Federal Trade Commission. which regulates the clothing labels, UPF ratings indicate how much of the sun’s UV radiation is absorbed by the fabric. For example, a fabric with a UPF rating of 20 permits 1/20th of the radiation to pass, reducing skin’s exposure by 20 times where protected by the fabric. The higher the number, the more protection offered; a label may not claim the clothing is “sun-protective” or “UV-protective” if the UPF is less than 15.

“Sunsuits are getting better and better,” says Dr. Dunbar. “I have a seven-month-old and she wears a hat, sunglasses, and a full body sunsuit! And she looks adorable.”

Protection offered at the time of purchase can diminish — clothing may lose its effectiveness if it’s stretched, gets wet from surf or sweat, and/or has been washed or worn repeatedly. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, non-UPF-branded clothes may offer skin some protection if they are tightly woven, dark-colored fabrics.

In addition to packing your boat tote with sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, lip balm with SPF, and sun-protective clothing for layering, Dr. Dunbar warns not to leave your common sense at the shore. Staying hydrated and escaping the sun’s intensity whenever possible are also important. “I always recommend patients use shade to their advantage. Canopies on boats work great for this.”

Having noticed a suspicious change to a mole on my left arm, I’m wishing I could go back in time and encourage my teenage self to skip the occasional suntan. Instead, I’ve scheduled an appointment for a skin check with a dermatologist, something everyone should do yearly. Abundant precaution and regular skin exams will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your time on the water with (not so) reckless abandon.

By Kathryn Van Druff


Tips to prevent eye cancer and explanation of sunscreen labels

Ocular Melanoma
Click here for the story on protecting dogs and infants from the sun

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