Avoid Tanning Beds, Period
Over the past 30 years we have seen a significant rise in the number of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. These cancers have a direct correlation to sun exposure, which ironically is one of the most preventable risk factors for skin cancer.
Sun exposure is also one of the most important causes of aging and sagging skin. Every day my patients ask me how they can prevent wrinkles and brown spots. My advice is to first and foremost protect yourself from the sun and UV rays.
So how do you safely protect your skin and your children’s skin from the sun? Here are a few basic rules I instruct my patients to follow:
- Avoid sun exposure. Sun avoidance is more effective than sun protection. By this, I do not mean stay inside all day, but I do expect patients to wear a hat and sit under an umbrella when outside. Wear a beach cover-up when headed for an all-day outing in the sun. I actually love the sun shirts that have SPF woven into the fabric. You can wear them in the water and out on the beach. And yes, there are some really cute ones.
Also, try to avoid exposing your skin to midday sun (11 am – 2 pm), when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Use sunscreen. Using sunscreen will help prevent UV rays from penetrating your skin and damaging the skin cells. See my tips below on how to choose the best sunscreen.
- Get Vitamin D safely through a healthy diet or through supplements. The sun should not be your main source of vitamin D.
- Avoid tanning beds. That is really all that I have to say about tanning beds—avoid them, period.
One of the biggest problems I find in my practice is that patients are just overwhelmed with the amount of choices, information/misinformation, and controversies over sunscreens. So here are some basic questions and answers about sunscreens.
- What sunscreens do you recommend?
There are many great sunscreens. You should chose one that has an SPF of 30 or higher, but mainly make sure it is labeled as broad-spectrum coverage. Broad-spectrum protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. In order to get broad-spectrum, I prefer sunscreens with one of the following ingredients:
- Zinc Oxide
- Titanium Dioxide
As long as it has one of these ingredients and has an SPF of 30 or higher, then pick a sunscreen you like. You are much more likely to use it if you like it. It makes no difference if it is a gel, cream, or stick.
- What about spray sunscreens?
I prefer lotion sunscreens to sprays. I do not believe that sprays provide adequate coverage. If you do use a spray sunscreen, please make sure to use enough to cover your body.
- Does the sunscreen in my makeup count?
It is nice to have SPF in your makeup, but it is usually not enough. It is best to apply a sunscreen or moisturizer with sunscreen first. Then apply your makeup.
- When and how often do I need to apply sunscreen?
Apply sunscreen at least every morning on sun-exposed areas (face, the part in your hair, neck, chest, hands, and any other exposed body parts). Keep your sunscreen in the bathroom so that you remember to apply it every day.
Sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes BEFORE sun exposure. Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you are in the sun and every hour when you are in the water (or sweating).
- How much sunscreen am I supposed to use?
Usually one ounce (enough to fill one shot glass) is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Try it. It is usually much more than you think.
- Should I be worried about all of the chemicals in sunscreens?
I do not feel there’s enough data to tell us whether or not any of the chemicals in sunscreens can cause harm, but we do know that UV rays can cause skin cancer. While there are no official warnings with regards to sunscreen ingredients and cancer, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the International Agency of Research on Cancer have declared UV rays as a known carcinogen.
Having said that, I want you to use a sunscreen that you are comfortable with. There are plenty of “organic,” “pure,” or “natural” sunscreens that are available.
Last but not least, please check your skin at least once per month. See your doctor if you notice anything that is new, changing, growing, or bleeding.
Safe in the Sun
“Wear a beach cover-up when headed for an all-day outing in the sun. I actually love the sun shirts that have SPF woven into the fabric.” – Dr. Vishakha Gigler
“The basic difference between a cream and a lotion is that cream is thicker. This allows for better emollition and hydration.” – Dr. Vishakha Gigler