Sun Protection: A Dermatologist’s 5 Best Tips
Skin Cancer Awareness Month Series
Naming the month of May as Skin Cancer Awareness Month is timely and brilliant - it's a great reminder to immediately take stock of your sun protection strategy. Along with the other rituals of spring - getting out the patio furniture, washing your bike, making a trip to the nursery, buying a season pass to your favorite regional park, etc. - you need to outfit yourself and your family for the best sun protection so you can enjoy the sun without the damage. Do you have a comprehensive sun protection strategy? Using the right sunscreen is important, but you need more than sunscreen to get the best sun protection you can. In addition to the sunscreens in my Quick Pick Sunscreen Guide below, what other sun protection tools and tricks do you plan to use to protect your skin while your enjoy the outdoors?
Here are the 5 essential steps - in addition to sunscreen - that you need for the best sun protection of your skin.
Sun Protection Tip #1
You need a proper sun hat. It needs to be a hat that you love. Not just a ball cap or visor, those are job protection for me. To protect the parts of your skin most prone to skin cancer and wrinkles (your face, around your eyes, ears, sides of your neck, and top of your scalp), you need a hat:
- with a full brim that also covers your scalp.
- that has a brim that measures at least 3 inches to really protect you from the sun’s rays.
- that is made of a material rated as UPF 50.
Yep, sorry but those romantic and loosely woven straw hats are cute, but not protective enough. Visors and ball caps leave too much critical skin exposed. Your skin deserves trusted protection that you can rely on. You don’t have to sacrifice style. There are tons of attractive hats made of UPF 50 materials.
Sun Protection Tip #2
You need a wardrobe of sun-protective clothing. Standard fabrics are not reliable enough protection for intense sun exposure. You need fabric designed and tested to protect your skin. I trust Coolibar sun-protective fabrics because of the technology used to design the fibers. The protection lasts as long as the garment so you know you're safe. Another option is to wash SunGuard into clothing that is already in your closet but that's probably not giving you enough sun protection for times of intense exposure. My recommendations for the best sun protection clothing:
- Buy a cover shirt for hiking, walking the dog, gardening, cycling, etc. You can throw the shirt on over a tank top or wear it on its own.
- Your sun protection clothing should have long sleeves to protect the fragile skin on the outside of your arms. Yes, it will be hotter, so if that’s an issue chose a cover shirt with venting. You can always roll up the sleeves if you get too hot, but they are there when you need the protection.
- If you swim (like I do), get a sun-protecting swim shirt. I swim laps at the worst times of the day for sun exposure, so I even wear Coolibar swim tights because melanoma on the legs is all too common. Sun-damaged leg skin is also thin and it is hard to reverse the damage - these tights prevent that too.
- Be sure to have breathable pants to protect your legs from the sun too. I wear Coolibar sun-protection long pants when I hike or go for a walk.
- Protect the back of your hands. Wear gloves if possible (garden gloves or sun-protection gloves). If you can't wear gloves, be sure that your shirt has sleeves that are long enough to cover the back of your hands. Remember that even with a sun shirt your hands will peek out from time to time. Every day be sure to apply a water-resistant sunscreen on the back of your hands when you apply your facial sunscreen.
Sun Protection Tip #3
Wear UV-blocking sunglasses, the bigger the better and even better if they wrap around the side of your eye area to some extent.
Sun Protection Tip #4
Be prepared for the sun in advance. Bring your sun protection with you. For example, I carry a Coolibar sun-protection scarf and a rolled-up sun hat in my purse during the warm weather just in case (don’t ask my husband about my purse, it is legend and yes I could survive in the wilderness with the contents of that purse if need be). I always have an ETSIS (Escape The Sun in Style™) hat with side panels, a sun-protection shirt, and gloves in my convertible car just in case the weather is nice and I can put the roof top down. Yes, I love the sun and I've mastered the art of enjoying it spontaneously without racking up more sun damage.
Sun Protection Tip #5
Aim for the shade. One option is to find existing shade like under a canopy of trees, an awning, an umbrella, etc. Another portable option is to carry a sun umbrella. Not all umbrellas block the sun well though. I carry a Coolibar Sun Protection Umbrella when I travel or when I am out in the direct sunlight. Remember, shade alone is not good enough because UV rays bounce off surfaces such as sand, pavement, the sides of buildings, etc. The best sun protection to keep your skin healthy and attractive comes from a combined strategy that includes "all of the above." One sun savvy customer summed it up:
I’ll be starting my Grand Canyon (kayaking) adventure. (There will be no shade so) I’m stocked up on sunscreen, hats, long pants and long-sleeve shirts, so I’m good to go. Heather B., Portland, OR
What about sunscreens?
I only recommend mineral zinc oxide products for their reliable broad spectrum protection - I think they give you the best protection! Match your products to your skin type and activities. Here are the most popular products in my practice. These are the products that I recommend and what I personally use for myself and my family.
Dr. Bailey’s "Quick Pick" Sunscreen Product Guide
Facial Sunscreens: Suntegrity 5 in 1 BB Cream SPF 30 Sunscreen. Tinted, moisturizing, and natural facial sunscreen for dry to normal skin. MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30 Sunscreen. Popular mattifying formula for oily skin. EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 Sunscreen. Light weight, untinted facial sunscreen for oily to normal skin.
"I am so happy with each of the products she’s recommended for me, but my absolute favorite is the Citrix Sunscreen SPF 30."
Face and all-over sunscreens: Citrix Sunscreen SPF 40. Great for neck, chest, ears, hands, arms, and legs. Trusted non-greasy water-resistant protection that’s invisible and easy to use. My husband's favorite sunscreen and a sunscreen I've used every day for years. Solbar Zinc Sunscreen SPF 38. Trusted mineral protection that's economical and easy to apply to squirming children and hairy skin. Lip Sunscreen EltaMD UV Lip Balm SPF 31. Cosmetically elegant and pleasant tasting sun protection for delicate lip skin. A sun-savvy "must have" - know when you're UV exposed! UV Detecto Ring. Economical and educational UV-sensing beads color up when exposed to UV rays. If you have found these sun protection tips helpful, please show your thanks by commenting on, sharing, “liking,” Google+, tweeting, and “pinning,” using the social sharing buttons above and below this blog post with friends and family. Sincerely, Dr. Bailey Skin Care Team Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Corbis and © Andrew Plewes/ImageZoo/Corbis