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Skin Health

3 Ways You Should Be Protecting Your Skin This Summer

Photo: Courtesy of Sarah Louise Kinsella

As we head into summer and make plans to spend more time outdoors, it’s essential that we protect our skin daily. “The fact is, the risk of getting skin cancer is having skin,” says Ramzi Saad, M.D., a spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation. “People with fair skin, freckles and light-colored eyes are at a higher risk because their natural protection is lower.” Still, Saad adds that while those with dark skin are less likely to burn over the course of their lives, they’ll probably get more unprotected sun exposure than someone who’s prone to burning.

Other factors that increase your risk include family history, having lots of moles (dark brown spots that are either flat or elevated, regular or irregular in appearance), and a history of sunburns. How many sunburns put you in the danger zone? “You have to be cautious about all sun exposure. The truth is, every sunburn puts you at risk for skin cancer,” he states.

1. Cover, cover, cover

“Wear long sleeve shirts, choose pants as opposed to shorts,” says Saad. “Clothing that’s designed to protect you from the sun.” Consider wearing hats and UV-protected sunglasses, too.

2. Choose sunscreen wisely

Saad emphasizes that all skin that isn’t protected by clothing should be covered with sunscreen. Look for lotions or sprays that are SPF 30 or higher, which protects you from ultraviolet B (the sun’s burning rays). But also make sure your sunscreen has “broad spectrum coverage,” which shields you from ultraviolet A (the rays that penetrate your skin more deeply and can reach you through car and building windows, florescent lighting and by reflecting off snow and water). “Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours, or more often if you’re using a spray,” he notes.

3. Be mindful of your exposure

It’s important to get outdoors and enjoy yourself, but Saad says to make it your goal never to burn. “Wear sunscreen, limit your exposure between 10am and 2pm, find shade, use beach umbrellas,” he says. And see your health professional for regular skin checks. “Check your spouse, check your children. The earlier you find something, the more likely you are to cure it.”

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