Now more than ever we need to make sure we are taking care of our skin, especially as we begin spending more time outside as the summer days get hotter. But what exactly do we need to know about sun safety? We had a chance to talk to Dr. Lori Sanford from Hancock Dermatology to ask her some of the important sun safety tips that our families should know.
Let’s talk about sunscreen. Is there a specific SPF you recommend for daily use and when we are out in the sun for longer periods of time? Is there a preference of brands and should we be looking at spray vs lotion?
“Any SPF of 30 or greater is usually adequate; most sunscreens above this rating contain an ingredient that provides broad spectrum coverage of harmful UV rays,” Dr. Sanford says. “I prefer SPF 50-70 for my personal use. The most important factor of sunscreen is to choose a sunscreen you like so you will apply an adequate amount in a frequency that will protect your skin. Reapplication should happen every 2 hours or after swimming. A sunscreen won’t protect you if it’s still in the bottle.”
“Some sunscreens (but not all) are labeled as water resistant from 40 to 80 minutes. I suggest using these on the beach or at the pool or if you are sweating,” Dr. Sanford suggests. She also prefers lotions and sticks, because “sprays tend to blow or create uneven or too light of coverage.” But Dr. Sanford did say that brand name is less important than SPF. “I also look for specific ingredients for my kids. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are physical blockers of UV meaning they reflect UV like a mirror. They are thought to be safer for children than other approved sunscreen ingredients and may be better for even adults with sensitive skin. These sunscreens are more likely to be white in color but I love this because I can tell when my littles need reapplication.”
What other protocols, besides just sunscreen, do you suggest we use when in the sun?
“I suggest sun-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses. My children swim in long sleeved swim shirts to reduce the amount of skin exposed. I also suggest sitting in the shade or under an umbrella when possible.” Dr. Sanford did say to keep in mind, “Remember, UV rays can reflect off water, sand, and snow so it is easier to burn at the beach, pool, lake or ski slopes.”
Is there a skin type that is more susceptible to skin cancer according to research?
“The more fair your skin, the more likely you are to burn and develop skin cancer through your life,” says Dr. Sanford. “Red heads make a different type of melanin (skin pigment) and therefore are typically not able to tan. Darker skin types are less likely to burn but can still get skin cancer. Cumulative UV exposure along with childhood sunburns are directly correlated with lifetime risk of skin cancer.”
Describe what types of freckles or new spots should cause alarm? What exactly should we be looking for or concerned about?
“Dermatologists are trained to recognize features of skin lesions that make them suspicious for skin cancer.” Dr. Sanford says she asks her patients to check their skin for moles or lesions that change, grow, bleed or cause pain. “These should be evaluated by a board certified dermatologist. The ABCD rule can help an individual evaluate their own moles. Concerning ones are Asymmetric, irregular Borders, irregular or multiple Colors, and Diameter greater than 5mm (pencil eraser).”
When doing a self-check for spots and moles, what areas should we pay the most attention to and how often should we do this self check?
“Sun exposed skin is more likely to develop a skin cancer BUT skin cancer can develop anywhere. All women should do self skin checks monthly.”
At what age should women start a yearly full body scan with a dermatologist?
According to Dr. Sanford, there is not a specific recommended age. “Those without risk factors probably do not need yearly exams by a dermatologist. Some risks factors to consider are family history of melanoma (only if in mom, dad, or a sibling), light skin types, exposure to excessive UV, history of sunburns, a high mole count (>100 on your body), or a personal history of skin cancer.” She did note that routine skin checks are not covered as a preventative service but are covered by most insurances as a specialist visit.
If someone in our age group was – unfortunately – a fan of the tanning bed 20 years ago, how can we “rewind” the damage we did back then? Is there a product ingredient we can most look for?
Hancock Health is committed to making health possible for everyone they serve—in 2020 and beyond. They have the facilities, the programs, the resources, and—most important—the people, to help you get healthy, stay healthy, and live a healthier life.
About Dr. Lori Sanford
Dr. Sanford is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and a Board Certified Dermatologist