“My mom just emailed me and said a 30-year-old just died at the hospital from melanoma,” my coworker emailed me last week.
“Wow- that’s so young!” I replied back, instantly reflecting on my life.
I’m 26. I can’t imagine only have four more years left to live…her email was a reminder that skin cancer is a real threat- just like any cancer- for anyone, at any age.
According to the American Cancer Society, the rates of new cancer cases are declining for most cancer sites. Good news, right? Well, the article added that new cancer cases are increasing among both men and women for melanoma of the skin…
Why the rise? Well, our obsession with tan skin drives us to put skin health on the back burner. We opt for tanning beds and tanning lotions instead for natural sun and SPF protection.
With Spring Break quickly approaching, it’s time that I play “mom” and remind me you of the importance of protecting your skin while in the sun!
Tip 1: Don’t tan before your trip
Many people go to indoor tanning salons to develop a “base tan” for their big trip. But guess what? There is little evidence to support this to be true!
According to Dr. Gibson in a MayoClinic article, “Tanning under the sun or a sunlamp gives protection that is equivalent to a sun protection factor (SPF) of 4 or less, which translates into a little extra time in the sun before you start to burn. But the larger issue is that any change in skin color is a sign of damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Repeated exposure to UV radiation — whether from the sun or a tanning bed — increases your risk of premature skin aging and skin cancer.”
Tip 2: Wear sunscreen
Notice, I said sunscreen-not tanning lotion that only has SPF 4. Experts and doctors suggest applying an SPF of 15 or higher? But what does the number after the SPF really mean? I did some research this is what WebMD told me, “The SPF factor rates how effective the sunscreen is in preventing sunburn caused by UVB rays. If you’d normally burn in 10 minutes, SPF 15 multiplies that by a factor of 15, meaning you could go 150 minutes before burning.”
For most people, SPF 15 is fine! But keep your personal (and family) history in mind when playing or laying in the sun! And remember – even though the article said you could go 150 minutes before burning, you should still re-apply your sunscreen every 30-60 minutes, depending on your activity. For example, you should apply more often if you are swimming or sweating during a match of sand volleyball. And hey, you can always ask the hunky guy throwing the football if he could help you get your back with sunscreen.
Sunscreen = health preserver AND pick up line. You’re welcome.
Tip 3: Wear a beach hat
The woman in the picture to (left, right) has it all figured out! She is applying sunscreen AND wearing a beach hat! Wearing a beach hat will offer some SVU protection and enhance your beach style.
You can find beach hats all over the place at your vacation destination – and usually for an affordable price. My step-mom would always buy a new hat at every vacation. Today, she has a collection of hats that serve as a reminder of family vacations and fun memories.
Tip 4: Use an umbrella
I used to be SO embarrassed when my parents would bust out an umbrella on the beach! Don’t they understand I’m here to get some sun!? I remember moving my chair or towel as far away from the umbrella as possible – ensuring my precise sun wasn’t blocked.
Looking back, I laugh at my foolishness. Taking a break from the sun in the umbrella is actually relaxing and healthy for your skin! Sometimes you can’t tell your burning until you get out of the sun.
So pop up an umbrella, take a few breaks in the shade, and don’t be so embarrassed of your parents (okay fine, the last one is easier said than done).
Tip 5: Wear a cover up
Did you know that can find some sun dresses and beach cover ups that are designed to protect you from UV rays? Pretty cool!
Just like using an umbrella on the beach, it’s perfectly normal to give your skin some rest by wearing a cover up while walking down the beach, enjoying a drink on the pier, or sharing snacks with the seagulls – I mean, your friends. I know you might not want to coverup your new (and fabulous) swimsuit, but your skin will thank you later.
Listen, I’ve been in your shoes. You want to come back from vacation with bronze skin and have people begging for details about your trip while also complimenting you on your new complexion. But one week of a dark tan isn’t worth skin damage, which can lead skin damage (aka more wrinkles) or even skin cancer.
Play it safe in the sun…so that you have many more years of playing in the sun with your family.