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10 Tips for Healthy Summer Skin

10 Tips for Healthy Summer Skin

Did you know skin cancer is the most common of all cancers? Each year in the U.S., more than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. While summer is a wonderful time of year, the heat and sun can take a nasty toll on your skin, hair, and body. Overexposure to sunshine can cause several problems—from skin cancer to eye complications, age spots to wrinkles.

That’s not to say you should spend all summer indoors and refrain from fun! With a few special precautions, you can enjoy summer to its fullest while protecting the skin you’re in.

  1. Layer on the Sunscreen. This is the No. 1 preventive measure for sun protection. Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach. Every morning before you leave the house, apply about 1 ounce of sunscreen to your entire body. For normal sun exposure, use a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of 15 or higher. If you’re planning to be outside in the sunshine, reapply every two hours. (For more tips on choosing the right sunscreen, check out this article.)
  2. Drink Lots of Water. The more time you spend in the heat and sun, the more you sweat and the higher your chances of dehydration. Make sure you’re combatting the heat by drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day or more if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Help your body sweat and cool down by drinking water frequently.
  3. Seek Shade. You can still enjoy the summer outdoors while staying out of the sun. Find a cool place to hang out in the shade—under an umbrella or beach tent, beneath a tree, under a covered porch or awning—especially during peak burning hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is the strongest. Don’t be fooled on a cloudy day. The sun can still damage your skin even when you can’t see it.
  4. Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate. Scrub away dry, dead skin as often as possible. Exfoliating improves your skin’s condition by preventing congestion and dehydration. Exfoliating regularly, especially during the summer months when heat and sun quickly damage delicate skin, ensures that your skin remains healthy and strong. Look for natural exfoliators and apply a hydrating moisturizer immediately after.
  5. Don’t Forget to Moisturize. Apply an FDA-approved moisturizer immediately after skin is exposed to sun, after you exfoliate, and when you get out of the shower. If you’re suffering from dry skin, try a moisturizing sunscreen. Popular ones include lanolin, oils, and silicones like dimethicone. These come in creams, lotions, and ointments.
  6. Properly Treat Sunburns and Other Sun Damage. If you’re suffering from a sunburn, it may take several days for your skin to heal. In the meantime, take an over-the-counter pain reliever, if needed, such as Ibuprofen or Aleve to control pain and swelling. Cool your skin with a cold bath or apply a clean damp towel. Rehydrate by applying plenty of moisturizer and drinking lots of water. Leave small blisters alone, and do not pull on peeling skin. Protect yourself from further exposure by staying out of the sun, and avoid any “-caine” products, including benzocaine, which may irritate the skin more. Continue to moisturize.
  7. Wear UVA-Protective Clothing and Accessories. Consider clothing that covers your skin to protect you from UV rays. Your head and ears are often vulnerable, so wear a hat and add sunscreen to your ears, face, and neck, even on cloudy days. The more of the eyes you cover with sunglasses, the better. All sunglasses should block out at least 99% of UV light. Be extra careful when you’re near a reflective surface like water or sand, too. These damaging, reflective rays can not only cause sunburns but eye irritations as well.
  8. Fully Protect the Lips. The lips are a common site for skin and lip cancer. They’re often exposed to the sun for extended periods, or we forget to put sunscreen or balm on that area. Fully protect your lips by wearing lip-specific products with SPF 15 or higher—SPF 30 or higher if you have a history of lip and skin cancer. Apply every two hours or so like you would use sunscreen, and avoid high-shine lip gloss, petroleum jelly, or baby oil while in the sun.
  9. Opt for Sunless Tanning Products Instead. Still want that perfect summer tan? Safely coat your skin with color by using sunless tanning products like lotions, creams, gels, and spray foams. Be sure to read labels carefully and stay away from any products not approved by the FDA—the FDA requires tanning products without sunscreen to contain a warning stating that it doesn’t protect against sunburn. Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps altogether, both of which can cause severe long-term damage and potentially lead to skin cancer.
  10. Look Out for the Entire Family. Children, especially, need special attention since they tend to spend more time outdoors and can burn more easily. If you’re a parent or guardian who cares for a child, make sure they wear clothes, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect them from harmful UV rays.

When to See Your Doctor

The great thing about a self-exam is you can do it anytime and anywhere. It’s essential to check your skin each month to look for signs of skin cancer, especially during summer. Spend a fair amount of time carefully looking at the entire surface of your skin—from your scalp to your fingernails, to the soles of your feet. Learning the patterns of every mole, blemish, freckle, and mark on your skin will help you track changes over time.

Any problem areas or changes should be examined by a doctor, especially if they just appeared or have changed rapidly or recently. The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot or a spot that’s changed in size, shape, or color.

Here’s a solid tip to make it easy to know when you should call your doctor. It’s called the ABCDE rule:

  • A is for Asymmetry: Look out for one half of a mole or birthmark that doesn’t match the other.
  • B is for Border: Are the edges irregular, ragged, blurred, or notched? This could be cause for concern.
  • C is for Color: If the color isn’t the same all over, or includes shades of brown or black or patches of pink, red, white, or blue, tell your doctor immediately.
  • D is for Diameter: If the spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼-inch the size of a pencil eraser), it could be melanoma. Keep in mind that sometimes melanomas are even smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, color, or shape.

Not all melanomas fit this rule, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes in skin markings or new spots. Other warning signs of skin cancer may include:

  • A sore that doesn’t heal
  • The spread of pigment from the border of the spot into the surrounding skin
  • Redness or swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • Change in sensation (itchiness, tenderness, or pain, for example)
  • Change in the mole surface

Save Your Skin

Your skin is the largest and fastest-growing organ on your body. It’s your body’s coat. It protects you. It helps to regulate your body temperature, shelters your internal organs, and prevents unwanted dirt, debris, and germs from getting in. Take care of it by developing safe summer skincare habits and discussing any irregularities with your doctor.

If you’re experiencing any of the signs or symptoms mentioned in the previous section of this article, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider today. Or, consider a preventive dermatologist appointment. A dermatologist can perform a routine, full-body skin exam to determine if any moles, growths, or legions look suspicious or could be a risk factor for skin cancer. The exam only takes a few minutes, and your dermatologist may biopsy suspicious-looking growths, if necessary.

And don’t forget—sunburns fade, but the damage to the skin’s layers remains. This damage adds up and can cause cancer over time. That’s why summer skin care should last a lifetime.