Summer is in full swing, and Florida is known as the Sunshine State for a reason.
Brandon Beal, MD, a dermatologist and facial plastic reconstructive surgeon with Jacksonville Skin Cancer Specialists and Baptist Health, provided some tips for protecting yourself from harsh summer rays.
- Pick the right sunscreen.
Look for one that has broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, is water-resistant, and is SPF 30 or greater. Creams and lotions work well for your face. Gels and sprays are good for hairy areas including the scalp.
- Apply, reapply, then reapply again.
Dr. Beal said the average person only applies half the amount of sunscreen he or she should. Apply a heavy layer, then try to reapply every two hours if you can. Look for natural breaks in the day to reapply, like when you head from the beach to lunch, for example.
- Seek shade.
Sit in the shade, when possible, and find a good wide-brimmed hat to protect your face.
- Don’t ignore your scalp or back.
You may have a hard time seeing these areas yourself, but be sure to put sunscreen on those places, too. Try a spray for your scalp if you’re worried about getting your hair sticky. Ask a friend or partner to check hard-to-see places for new or changing moles.
- Look for suspicious spots.
Be wary of changes in moles or spots you’ve had for a while that suddenly appear different or start to bleed. You should also have a dermatologist take a look at scabs that won’t go away.
- Protect against peeling.
Dr. Beal warned that more than five blistering sunburns in the same spot can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.
If you do get burned, Dr. Beal has tips for helping with that, too.
- Use aloe vera gel to soothe. To increase the cooling sensation, put it in the fridge first.
- If you have a painful sunburn, take a pain reliever up to four times a day to reduce the discomfort. Schedule out the doses rather than waiting for the pain to flare up.
Dr. Beal said the bottom line is that you don’t need to stop having fun in the sun, but you do need to be cautious while spending time outdoors.
“I’ve never told a patient to avoid the things they enjoy doing, like boating, surfing or going to the pool,” Dr. Beal said. “Instead, I tell them to respect the sun and find ways to protect themselves when they are out in it.”
Have you or a loved one has been diagnosed with skin cancer? Learn more about Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center’s skin cancer treatment options.