The weather has warmed up, and if you’re like most Floridians, you’re looking forward to many days at the pool and beach. But before you dive in, remember that your skin is your body’s largest organ and it is important to keep it healthy.
The sun may feel great on your body, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can do terrible damage. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and melanoma is the most serious form of the disease. Each year thousands of people develop melanoma, and many will die from it.
- Use sunscreen. It is critical that you use sunscreen every day, not just at the pool or beach, and even on days that seem overcast. Make sure you use sunscreen that is water resistant and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. SPF of 30 or higher is recommended for people who spend a lot of time outside or are fair skinned. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply at it every two hours or after you get out of the water.
- Wear a hat. It can be hard to apply sunscreen to your ears and scalp, so protect your head with a broad-brimmed hat.
- Dress right. When you can, cover up with long-sleeve shirts and long pants. You will get more UV protection from clothes with dark colors and tighter weaves. You can also try clothing that has been manufactured with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which guards again dangerous UV rays.
- Use lip balm. Many people forget to add protection to their lips, but lips are often a common site for skin cancer. Choose lip balms with SPF of 15 or higher and reapply every two hours. If you wear lipstick, apply the lip balm underneath it.
- Wear sunglasses. Be sure to wear sunglasses with UV protection whenever you are outside. These can help prevent skin cancer, as well as wrinkles, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
- Look for shade. Even when you wear protection, the sun can be strong. Try to find shade or shelter during the peak hours of midday.
- Avoid tanning beds. The tan you get from a salon is just as dangerous as one you get from the sun. If you just have to get some color, try the various sunless tanning lotions that are available. Keep in mind, however, that some of these look more natural than others.
- Moisturize. No matter how much time you spend outside, it’s important to moisturize your skin each day. Talk to a dermatologist about the best products for your skin.
May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, so this is the perfect time to work on your everyday habits. Do yourself—and your skin—a favor by protecting yourself this summer.
Skin Cancer Prevention (CDC)
Be Safe in the Sun (American Cancer Society)