Did you use all of your sunscreen last year?
If you applied it properly, you should have used it all. “Most people don’t use enough sunscreen,” said Patrick Safo, MD, PhD, a dermatologist with Ministry Medical Group in Stevens Point. “When sunscreens are used appropriately most containers would be used within a year.”
Adults should use approximately two tablespoons per application and should repeat applications based on activity and time in the sun.
Some sunscreens even have expiration dates on the containers. To ensure you are receiving the protection you need from your sunscreen, you should discard it if:
- you've had it for more than three years
- there has been an obvious color change
- the expiration date has passed
Using a new sunscreen each year is your best protection against skin cancer.
It is important to balance your sun exposure and your need for vitamin D.
A thick layer of sunscreen on the skin, especially sunscreen made with ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide actually blocks both UVA and UVB rays. This may significantly decrease vitamin D production.
However, people who use a moderate amount of chemical sunscreen, which absorbs into the skin, were shown to have only a mild potential for the decrease in vitamin D production. Older people may have a more difficult time manufacturing vitamin D.
If you use a mineral-based sun block or you are over the age of 50, you may want to add a vitamin D supplement to your diet. You should visit your healthcare provider for a quick blood test to determine your vitamin D levels.
Tips to remember when using sunscreen.
If you are using a sunscreen that absorbs into your skin, remember that you should apply it 30 minutes before you are exposed to the sun. This allows for maximum absorption, which provides maximum protection.
Shade, cars, and house windows all permit UV rays to reach you. So, it is always a good idea to use sunscreen if you are going to be exposed to sunlight in these environments as well. Especially, if you are driving for long periods of time during the day.
The UV rays of the sun can also penetrate some types of fabrics. For protection head to toe, slather on sunscreen before you get dressed in the morning.
Use the right sunscreen for your activity. If you will be sweating or swimming, the best sunscreen for you to use might be a waterproof variety. Even a waterproof sunscreen will need to be reapplied in 60 to 90 minutes.
Don’t forget to protect your eyes and your lips. You may also want to use a sunscreen that has been specifically formulated for facial skin, which is a bit more sensitive than the skin on the rest of your body.
The best sunscreen for kids is a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 formulated for children or for people who have sensitive skin.
Be cautious. Tanning oils and tanning lotions are not sunscreens. These products usually contain no sunscreen ingredients and are actually used to speed the tanning process and create a darker-colored tan.
Be vigilant about your skin.
All the sunscreen in the world will not help, if you don’t routinely check your skin for changes. According to the National Institutes of Health, most adults have 10 to 40 moles. It’s important to be familiar with their size and location.
People who have a larger number of moles, who routinely use tanning salons or who go out in the sun without protection, should be very attentive about the changes in their skin. Changes in color, size or texture, of a mole are reasons for concern.
If you detect any of the changes below, you should contact your healthcare provider for a skin cancer assessment as soon as possible.
Together, you and your healthcare provider can review the ABCDs of skin cancer.
- A—An asymmetrical or abnormally shaped mole needs further testing
- B—A mole with a hazy, fuzzy or irregular looking border is cause for concern.
- C—A mole of a different color or a mole with different colors may require a biopsy for skin cancer.
- D—Moles that grow in diameter especially moles as large or larger than a pencil eraser, may be a sign of skin cancer and require more treatment.
If you detect any of these changes to your skin or your existing moles, visit your healthcare provider for a skin cancer screening. If you don’t have a doctor, you can find one at www.ministryhealth.org/findadoctor.
Don’t wait. Skin cancer treatment has a very high rate of success when skin care is treated in its earliest stages.