Put Your Skin Health First This Spring Break
By: Richard Bezozo, M.D.
Spring is quickly approaching, and that means many people are planning getaways to warm, sunny climates. Whether you’re prepping for a vacation from work or gearing up for a spring break trip, you probably have at least one thing in common: you are in search of that golden tan.
Let’s face it – although the sand is beckoning to dig ours toes into it and we may be looking forward to spending lazy vacation days in the sun, we are also putting our skin at extreme risk for serious damage and increasing the risk of potentially developing a serious skin illness or disease. If you are a spring breaker or a future vacationer seeking a hot spot, spending time outside in the sun requires some risk-taking. Follow these simple times to maximize your skin protection and practice safe sun:
· Do not seek a base tan. There truly is no such thing as a “base tan,” and getting one will certainly not provide you with protection from the sun’s UV rays. Recent studies and research from the Melanoma Research Foundation show that tanning bed users have a significantly increased risk of developing melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. So, instead of visiting your local tanning salon to get an initial tan, or burn, practice safe sun with the additional tips below.
· Minimize exposure during the sun’s strongest and most powerful hours. 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. is when the UV rays are strongest, so if possible, avoid the sun or minimize your time outdoors during these hours. Instead, try shopping, going out to lunch, or other fun vacation festivities! If you are looking to be a beach bum or enjoy a day lounging at the pool, consider renting a cabana or bringing a large umbrella to help shade you from the sun for prolonged hours.
· Protect your skin. When you are enjoying the sun’s warmth outdoors, always wear a broad-spectrum and water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and be sure to get all exposed and non-exposed skin areas. Apply the sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every 1 ½ to 2 hours. Don’t forget that sunscreen is needed even on cloudy days, because approximately 50 – 80 percent of UV rays penetrate through the clouds.
· Stay Covered. Wear a hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, a lip balm with an SPF, and wear protective clothing to cover your skin if and when possible.
· Treat your burns properly. Sun burns are the ultimate vacation-killer. There is nothing like getting a painful, or blistering, burn that keeps you from having fun the rest of your spring break or vacation. If your skin does happen to burn from too much sun exposure, apply aloe or moisturizing cream to ease the discomfort and hydrate your skin and be sure to stay out of the sun to limit any further damage.
· Monitor your skin. Be proactive in your skin health by regularly monitoring your skin for any changes in the size or shape of existing moles and monitor your skin for new moles. Consider enrolling in an early detection melanoma screening program, to optimize your skin health.
One blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life making it essential that people take the lead in their skin health, in order to reduce the risk of developing a potentially deadly disease, such as melanoma. As you are gearing up for your vacation and warmer climate keep these tips in mind and be sure to make regular visits to your dermatologist, perform self-checks, and consider enrolling in an early detection surveillance program.