Here in the Pacific Northwest we earn our summers. The sun is finally out of hibernation, the days have morphed from absurdly short to absurdly long, and the time has come (finally!) to liberate our cutoffs and sundresses from deep, damp storage. That’s the good news.
The bad news: the Puget Sound region has some of the country’s highest rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. One in five of us will get skin cancer in our lives, warns Jennifer Gardner, M.D., who sees patients at the Dermatology Clinic at UW Medical Center–Roosevelt. People with fair skin or skin that burns easily and people with blonde or red hair are at increased risk.
Yes, you have earned your fun in the sun, but before you frolic, here are a few friendly skin-protection reminders (and a thing or two you might not already know about sunscreen).
I never read those pesky labels—what do they say?
You probably know that sunscreen is a must—to protect against sunburn, wrinkles, spots, leathery skin and skin cancer. But how much should you be using? The answer is likely: More! All the sunscreen! Experts recommend one ounce of sunscreen—enough to fill a shot glass—to cover one adult body.
Look for a sunscreen marked “broad spectrum,” which means it protects against both UVA rays (the ones that can cause wrinkles and spots) and UVB rays (the ones that can cause sunburns). (Both can contribute to skin cancer.)
Aim for a sun protection factor (SPF FTW!) of 30 or above. The SPF listed on the bottle isn’t always accurate, says Gardner, so aiming higher than 30 is not a terrible idea. Also, a poorly applied sunscreen with an SPF of 100 will give you better protection than a poorly applied sunscreen with an SPF of 50. If you or your loved ones believe that your sunscreen application technique leaves room for improvement, opt for a higher SPF.
There’s no such thing as a waterproof sunscreen, and the Food and Drug Administration no longer allows manufacturers to make such a claim. Go for ones labeled “water resistant,” especially if you’re swimming or sweating.