As summer heats up, many people will be heading to the beach to escape the hot temperatures. But before you spend time in the sun, Dana-Farber dermatologist Jennifer Lin, MD, has a few tips to protect your skin and lower your risk of developing skin cancer:
Do not use tanning booths
Don’t hit the tanning bed for a “base tan” before you hit the beach. Tanning booths contain UVA rays, which can raise the risk for developing melanoma, the rarest and most aggressive form of skin cancer. Getting a base tan won’t stop you from burning at the beach, either.
Use protective clothing
It’s easy to forget sun block at home, or forget to reapply. Hats and long-sleeved clothing often beat reapplying sunscreen.
Protect yourself with a wide-brimmed hat or baseball cap, and don’t be afraid to wear long sleeves or cover-ups. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun as well.
Know your skin
It’s important to know your skin tone; some people are not meant to spend excess time in the sun. Fair-skinned people (freckles, blue eyes, red hair, and white skin) are at a higher risk of burning and should be extra careful in the sun.
Sunburns, particularly blistering sunburns in your youth, are associated with an increased risk of developing melanoma.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply every two hours. It’s also important to reapply after excessive sweating or swimming.
Most people also don’t put on enough sunscreen. A shot glass (two tablespoons) of sunscreen is needed for your face and exposed areas of the skin. If you are using a spray, use enough to get an even coating, and rub in to prevent missed spots. Apply chemical sunscreens 15 minutes prior to sun exposure as these sunscreens work better when absorbed.
Avoid excessive exposure
The sun is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Don’t spend excessive amounts of time in the sun during those hours. If you do spend a long time outside, make sure to use sun block and reapply every two hours.
If you are planning a beach day, try to go later in the day when the sun isn’t as strong and harmful. Also, find an umbrella, cover up and go inside during the middle of the day.
“Be smart about your sun exposure,” Lin says. “Do the activities that you love to do but minimize exposure by performing the activities in the early morning and evening when the UV rays are less intense.”