Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma as well as skin aging.
The following are Skin Cancer Foundation sun safety guidelines:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM
- Do not burn
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Wear sun-protective clothing
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect damaging rays
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet, including vitamin supplements
- Examine your skin head to toe every month
- See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam
For Every Day Sun Protection
Sunscreen should be worn every day, regardless of the weather or season. Sun exposure occurs all day long, through clouds, through glass windows of our homes and cars.
Limiting sun exposure, by wearing hats/gloves/sun protective clothing and avoiding exposure between 10am-3pm, is essential. You should wear sunscreen every day on exposed areas (i.e., face, neck, V-neck, chest, hands/forearms, and legs) for both skin cancer protection and defense against photo-aging.
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is defined as a ratio of time in the sun required to sunburn with sunscreen on to the length of time in the sun required to burn without sunscreen.
- SPF30: blocks 96.7% of ultraviolet radiation
- SPF50: blocks 98% of ultraviolet radiation
Choose a daily sunscreen that is at least SPF30 (if you have dark skin) or SPF 40-50 (if you have light skin) and has both UVA and UVB (i.e. broad spectrum) coverage. If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, or if you are often outdoors, consider using a sunscreen with higher than SPF 50.
There are two basic types of sunscreen:
- Mineral sunscreen (physical blocker): physically blocks ultraviolet radiation. Active ingredients include zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- Chemical sunscreens: contain special chemicals that absorb ultraviolet radiation such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, ecamsule, padimate O,PABA, octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, phenylbenzimidazole sulfonic acid, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, octinoxate.
For face: UVA/UVB (broad spectrum) coverage higher than SPF30 is recommended
- There are now many facial moisturizers that contain sunscreen, and this is adequate for regular daily use if the majority of your day is spent indoors and/or out of direct sunlight. Re-apply the sunscreen every few hours throughout the day.
- Choose a non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide if you have acne-prone skin or if you experience skin irritation with other chemical-containing sunscreens. Consult your doctor if sunscreens cause persistent significant skin irritation, or if you believe that you have a sunscreen allergy.
- There are several powder-based products containing mineral sunscreens that can be applied over moisturizer or make-up.
For lips: lip-balm containing SPF30 is recommended
For body: UVA/UVB (broad spectrum) coverage greater than SPF50 is recommended
- Lotion, cream, gel is recommended over spray.
- Consider wearing SPF30-50 UV-blocking articles of clothing as an alternative to sunscreen.
What about sun protection for sports and outdoor activities?
For water sports, a wetsuit or UV-proof (SPF50) water jersey is recommended. Other sun-exposed areas require special sunscreens that will stay on in the water or after sweating. They need to be reapplied often, especially after sweating, toweling off or after extended periods of time when skin is immersed in water.
- Very water resistant sunscreens: SPF is maintained after 80 minutes water immersion
- Water resistant sunscreens: SPF is maintained after 40 minutes water immersion