How to Keep Your Skin Sun-Safe This Summer

Did you know that May is Melanoma Awareness Month? As the weather starts to heat up and we’ll all be spending more time outdoors, now is the perfect time to talk about sun safety.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and rates are rising. In fact it’s one of the top 3 cancers diagnosed in young adults (ages 25-29) which is attributed to the use of tanning beds.

I’m guilty of using tanning beds in my early 20’s and the thought of it now makes me shudder. I used them to get a “base tan” before going on vacation because I didn’t want to be the pasty white person on the beach. I wish I knew better! No tan is a safe tan.

Exposure to damaging UV rays from the sun and tanning devices is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers. UV exposure also leads to premature aging of the skin.

I do want to mention that the sun isn’t evil (unless you’re a vampire). We actually need some sun exposure in order for our bodies to synthesize Vitamin D. All it really takes is 10-15 minutes of sun exposure so no need to be laying out roasting in the sun. Get your Vitamin D and then protect yourself with these tips.

1.Stay out of the sun during peak hours (Roughly 10am – 4pm, but may vary depending on where you live)

2. Wear protective clothing like sunglasses, hats and long sleeves (think lightweight, breathable material) to shield you from the rays

3. Load up on antioxidant rich foods 🙂 Bet you weren’t expecting that one! UV radiation from the sun increases free radicals in the body. Since antioxidants counteract the negative effects of free radicals, it’s a good idea to increase these foods in your diet!

4. Use sunscreen, but don’t let it fool you into thinking your invincible. Lathering on the sunscreen often gives people a false sense of security that ultimately leads to burns.

Unfortunately most conventional sunscreens contain ingredients like oxybenzone (a hormone disruptor) and retinyl palmitate (a form of Vitamin A that may harm the skin). Studies on retinyl palmitate by federal government scientists indicate that it may trigger development of skin tumors and lesions when used on skin in the presence of sunlight. Yikes!!

So what’s a better option? The active ingredient you want to look for is non-nano zinc oxide. This offers some physical protection from UV rays, but wearing it still doesn’t mean you can spend hours out in the sun. Limiting time spent in the sun and using protective clothing is always your best bet!

My personal favourite safe sunscreens are:

In addition to knowing how to protect yourself, it’s also important to know how to detect any changes that occur in your skin. Early detection increases survival so make a monthly date with yourself or your partner to do a skin self-exam. Keep in mind that skin cancer can grow anywhere (not just areas exposed to the sun) so be thorough.

Wondering how to do a skin self-exam? This video will help! It’s less than 4 minutes long and definitely worth your time to watch.

Notice any new spots, growths or moles? Most are harmless, but if you notice any of these “ABCDE” warning signs, please see your doctor ASAP.

Asymmetry – one half of the mole doesn’t match the other

Border irregularity

Colour that is not uniform

Diameter greater than 6 mm

Evolution of size, shape or colour

For even more great sun-safety information check out the Environmental Working Group’s 11th annual guide to sunscreens and if you have any sun protection tips to share, please comment below.