Spring is in full force, and as the warm weather ensues, most of us will be spending more time enjoying the beautiful weather outdoors. Aside from protecting yourself from the West Nile Virus, you should also consider safeguarding your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Be sure and browse our tip sheet below.
Expert, Cheryl White, M.D., a plastic surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Medical Center at Irving, answers common questions on skin protection below:
Q: What level of SPF do experts recommend?
- The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation raised the recommendation from 15 SPF (sun protection factor) to 30 SPF or higher, because most people don’t apply enough sunscreen.
- Look for “broad-spectrum” coverage (with UVA and UVB protection)
- Apply at least 1 ounce on your face, arms and legs, and another ounce if you’re in a bathing suit on your chest and back, Dr. White says.
Q: Can you can get sunburned when it’s cloudy?
“Depending on how think the clouds are, 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can come through—even in the wintertime,” Dr. White says. “That’s why it’s so important to wear sunscreen even if it’s not sunny.”
Q: What are the most common sunscreen mistakes?
- Neglecting key areas, such as the ears and neck.
- Putting sunscreen on after you’re outside.
“I find that patients will frequently miss their lips, ears, neck and the tops of their feet,” Dr. White says. And most sunscreens need to be applied 15 minutes before you go outside to provide protection. “Only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are effective immediately,” she says.
Q: Can you get skin cancer even if you don’t spend a lot of time in the sun?
While basal and squamous cell cancers are directly linked to UV exposure, melanoma is different. “There’s a genetic component that puts you at a higher risk for developing it, or if you have many, many moles—regardless of any sun exposure,” Dr. White says.
“That’s why we encourage patients to do full-body, self-skin checks regularly and to see a dermatologist if they have any doubt about a spot.
Q: Are tanning beds a safe way to get vitamin D?
“Tanning beds typically use UVA bulbs, and an easy way to remember what UVA does is to think that ‘A’ stands for aging. It’s going to cause wrinkles and it’s going to increase your risk for skin cancer too,” Dr. White says.
“UVB rays—in which the ‘B’ stands for burn—are the rays that are used to make vitamin D in your body.”
And remember: You can get vitamin D from dietary sources like milk, or by taking a supplement.”
Stay skin savvy and if you see a suspicious spot, don’t wait to get it checked. Early prevention is the key to treating skin cancer. For a free physician referral, visit FindDrRight.com.
This content originally appeared in the May 2013 edition of Baylor Health Magazine.