Here is the bad news: Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise. The good news? There are numerous ways you can protect yourself against it, and they aren’t difficult or expensive.
Here is a summer skin plan that you can adopt:
Step 1: Educate
EVERYONE, regardless of the color of your skin, is at risk of developing skin cancer. Know the warning signs of melanoma; SkinCancer.org has a great visual of the signs.
Step 2: Exam
Many doctors recommend regular skin exams, especially for those who are at high risk of developing skin cancer. You know your body better than anyone. Get in the habit of examining your own skin. The American Cancer Society urges you to “learn the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles and other marks on your skin so that you’ll notice any changes next time.”
Step 3: Sunscreen
Slathering on sunscreen is a science—too little and you risk a burn, too much and you are left sticky. There are two major types of sunscreens, chemical and physical.
Chemical sunscreens create a chemical reaction and work by converting UV rays into heat, which is then released from the skin. They need to be applied directly to clean, bare skin and need time to be absorbed into the skin before sun exposure.
Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They work by sitting on top of the skin, deflecting and scattering UV rays. These can be applied last, after serums or moisturizers. Make sure you are applying enough—the recommendation is 1 ounce (think shot glass) of sunscreen to cover your whole body, then reapplying after two hours or swimming/major sweating.
The EWG, or Environmental Working Group, publishes an annual guide to sunscreens with safety ratings that can help you chose the best one for your family.
Step 4: Throw some shade
Sunscreen is your body’s last line of defense against damaging UV rays, so increase your odds of blocking them by seeking shade during peak hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) and covering your skin with clothing and UV-blocking sunnies.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.