Choose Your Cover
Sarah Jackson, M.D.
The hottest season of the year is approaching, which means longer days, bronzed skin and more time spent outdoors. The sun’s rays are known for helping the skin produce vitamin D, but spending too much time in the sun can lead to premature aging or worse skin cancer. It’s impractical to completely avoid the sun and never go outside altogether. Thus, it’s important to take preventative measures to protect and care for your skin while out in the sun.
More than 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Studies show 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86% of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. UV rays can reach your skin on cloudy days, as well as sunny days. This is why you should protect your skin all year around no matter the weather.
Rub it In
Sunscreen is an important factor in sun protection. Sunscreens protect your skin by absorbing and/or reflecting UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 even on cloudy days. You should be aware that an SPF of 30 does not mean double the protection. A sunscreen of SPF 15 protects the skin from 93 percent of UVB radiation, and SPF 30 sunscreen protects the skin from 97 percent of UVB radiation.
You should apply a thick layer of sunscreen on your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Also, you should reapply sunscreen after two hours in the sun and after swimming and sweating. By itself, sunscreen alone is not enough protection. To thoroughly protect yourself, you should do as many of the sun protecting steps as possible – see below.
Maximize Sun Protection
Clothing should be your first line of defense against ultraviolet rays. Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Tightly woven clothing offers the best protection. If it’s impractical to wear long sleeves and pants, try to wear a cover-up or a t-shirt.
Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your head and neck. Avoid straw hats that let sunlight in, but opt for a tightly woven hat instead.
Wear Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Most sunglasses meet the standards of UVA and UVB rays’ protection in the United States. Sunglasses reduce your risk of cataracts, and protect the skin around your eyes from aging.
Seek Shade. The most hazardous UV exposure is between 10 am and 4pm. You should bring an umbrella to the beach or use any other shelter when outside.
Avoid indoor tanning beds. Indoor and outdoor tanning are both dangerous. Studies show indoor tanning can cause melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Indoor tanning gives you high levels of UV radiation, which can cause premature aging, change your skin texture and increase your risk of cataracts.
Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. If you spot any strange skin growth, mole or sore, contact your physician, preferably one who specializes in diseases of the skin. Skin cancer is the easiest to cure, if diagnosed and treated early.
See your physician every year. Ask for a professional skin exam when visiting your physician.
If you are interested in a skin exam, call Audubon Dermatology at 504-895-3376 to schedule an appointment.
Dr. Jackson received her medical degree from Louisiana State University School of Medicine, where she was a member of AOA honor Medical Society. She also fulfilled her residency training at Louisiana State University Health Science Center where she served as Chief Resident in Dermatology. She is a board-certified Dermatologist with special interest and training in medical dermatology, dermatologic surgery, cosmetic dermatology and laser surgery. she is the Louisiana State Chair of the Dermatology Foundation, the largest foundation of dermatologic research in the country. Dr. Jackson lives in New Orleans, LA with her husband Konrad and their 3 children Adelaide, Henry, and Charles.