In the past decade, the diagnostic rates of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — have increased by 54%. Of that 54%, more than 7,000 will die from the disease. If this news doesn’t surprise you, you’re not alone. Most people are aware of UV ray dangers, yet many fail to take precautionary measures to reduce their risk. What’s more, most people neglect to protect their children at all. If you don’t take steps to protect yourself or your child from the sun’s harmful UV rays, it’s never too late to start doing so. Use these tips for sun and UV protection to reduce your risk as much as possible.
Get a Head Start
Dr. Melanie Palm, a board-certified dermatologist in San Diego, CA, and a member of the Amonette Circle of the Skin Cancer Foundation, tells Parentology. “Get a head start on your day: apply sunscreen — I prefer a zinc-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more — before you head out the door,” she tells Parentology. “Make sure the sunscreen has a physical sunscreen, meaning something with the active ingredients of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. As a bonus, physical sunscreens don’t sting eyes — great for kids — and are not absorbed by the skin.”
Palm recommends adults and children reapply their sunscreen throughout the day. If you plan to be outdoors for the majority of the day, you should reapply every two hours or so.
Both Palm and Dr. Jennifer T. Haley, MD FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist, say to cover up. “As a mother of two boys raised in Hawaii and Arizona, as well as a board-certified dermatologist of 15 years, I’m a strong advocate of physical barriers,” she tells Parentology. “Use rash guard, swim shirts, long sleeves (especially those with a thumb hole to cover back of hands), and hats as the primary protection from UV radiation.”
Palm agrees. “UPF clothing has come a long way and is more comfortable, functional and breathable [than it’s ever been]. There are also great UPF options for kids. Make sure areas such as the head and back of the neck are covered.”
However, Dr. Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD, of AmberNoon & Montgomery Dermatology, and a Tory Burch Fellow, tells Parentology such clothing isn’t always effective and may do more harm than good. “Very few studies have been done to really speak to its effectiveness, and even fewer studies on the safety of chemical finishes companies add to clothing to make them more effective against the sun.
Ilyas continues, “Studies available have shown the average UPF of a white T-shirt is around five. This is a far cry from the recommended minimum UPF of 20 … [Additional] studies have demonstrated that our skin has some absorption of [finishes used to increase UPF] and these finishes wash out of clothing and end up in our water supply.”
Consider Reasonable Sun Safety
Experts agree there are good times and bad times to be in the sun. “Try to plan outdoor activities outside of peak UV exposure times of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.,” Palm advises. “Seek shade and be aware that even on cloudy days, 80% of UV rays still penetrate the earth’s surface.”
Haley warns of the compound effect. “Even if someone says he or she does not plan on being in the sun, UVA rays will penetrate windows and cause a significant amount of sun damage over a lifetime,” she says. “This is why most skin cancers and brown spots and wrinkles are found on the left side of the face — just from driving. Most people also spend at least 10 minutes a day between their car and office/stores, getting their mail, talking to neighbors, walking their dog. Ten minutes a day adds up to over 50 hours a year to those exposed areas of the skin. It’s a real compound effect.”