Today’s Question: I’m leaving for Spring Break vacation next week. What do I need to remember to keep myself protected without feeling like a hermit? Katie, Leesburg
A: I’m so glad you asked, Katie! With the start of spring this week and many families heading south soon for Spring Break, it’s a great time for a reminder on protecting yourself and your family from the sun’s harmful rays. By following a few easy guidelines, you can enjoy the sun worry free, wrinkle free and sunburn free!
1. Do Not Get A Base Tan Before You Leave
There is no such thing as a safe tan, Katie. Any tan at all is a sign of skin damage. It is a myth that a “base tan” protects your skin from a sunburn. According to Dr. Steven Rotter of the Center for Skin Surgery, “A suntan or sunbed tan usually provides a maximum SPF (sun protection factor) of 4, which means you would take four times longer to burn than if you had no tan. If you would normally burn after 15 minutes of sun exposure, with a tan you would burn in one hour. Since sunburns are also associated with higher risks of skin cancer, especially melanoma, avoid both tans and sunburns.” In addition to skin cancer, the UV damage also causes sagging skin, wrinkles and brown spots.
2. Vacation Sunscreen 101
A sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied 30 minutes before you hit the beach to allow the ingredients to bind to your skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, in order for the SPF to be effective you should apply about a shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours. You will need to reapply more often if you have been swimming in the pool or looking for sand dollars in the ocean. Check and make sure your sunscreen is not expired and that it is labeled “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum means that it will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays contribute to aging and skin cancer. UVB rays cause sunburns. When most people hear the word sunscreen, they think of a thick, heavy lotion their mom lathered on them at the beach. Katie, sunscreens have come a long way since then. Today’s sunscreens from a medical professional’s office are weightless and won’t leave you feeling greasy or smelly.
In addition to your sunscreen, Katie, I recommend you also wear a wide-brimmed straw hat with at least a 3-inch brim for additional protection for your head, scalp, ears and face. Besides looking sophisticated and in style, you will also give yourself an added level of protection from crow’s feet, forehead lines and brown spots. Also, don’t forget your sunglasses! Not only will they help protect your eyes from cataracts and cancer, but they can help prevent crow’s feet and frown lines caused from squinting.
4. Don’t Forget Your Lips
Lips have almost no melanin in them (pigment that gives color to the skin), so it’s vital that you protect them. “The lower lip, which receives greater sun exposure, is especially vulnerable to squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer,” according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Using a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF 15 or higher will block out those damaging UV rays. Don’t forget to reapply! Not only will you prevent cancer, but also chapping, peeling and dryness.
Katie, I hope these few reminders will help you and your family stay protected on your upcoming vacation. As you can see, by taking a few precautions you can both enjoy your sunny vacation without feeling like a hermit and keep your skin healthy at the same time. If you have any questions about the proper sunscreen for you and your skin, be sure to talk to your medical skin care specialist for a recommendation. Have a wonderful trip!
Jennifer Kauffman is a Board Certified Nurse Practitioner, practicing in Warsaw and Ft. Wayne. She is a sought after speaker at medical conferences such as the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons. Jennifer is a member of American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and Coalition of Advance Practice Nurses of Indiana. She received her Nursing and Nurse Practitioner degrees from Goshen College, and Indiana Wesleyan University. Jennifer is a Clinical Instructor nationally to physicians and nurses on sclerotherapy.
Do you have a question for Jennifer, about this article or another cosmetic skin care issue? Please call Vein Institute & Medical Spa at 574-267-1900 to have your questions answered and considered for future columns. Questions can also be submitted online at www.veinmedicalspa.com.