Sunscreen: Picking the Right One for You

Research has shown sunscreen use can help prevent skin cancer by protecting you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Walk into any store and you will see an abundance of sunscreen options to choose from. It is important to understand not all sunscreens are created equal. There are three main areas to look for when considering which sunscreen to buy.

Broad-Spectrum Protection
Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects you against the two types of UV light harmful to your skin – UVA and UVB. UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, where UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to either type increases your risk of skin cancer.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
SPF is a measure of how well the sunscreen protects against UVB rays – UVA protection is not currently rated. When applied correctly, a sunscreen with SPF 30 can block 97 percent of the sun’s rays. A higher number SPF blocks slightly more of the sun’s rays, but does not allow you to spend more time outside without reapplication. No sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays.

Water Resistance
The term water resistant means the SPF within the sunscreen can be maintained for up to 40 minutes while swimming or sweating. Regardless, it is important to dry off and reapply often for continued protection.

While these three areas are crucial in deciding which sunscreen to choose it is also important to determine the type of application you need. Ultimately, it is a personal choice, but each comes with their own benefit:

• Creams work well if you have dry skin, especially on your face
• Lotions work well when needing to apply over a large area
• Gels work best in hairy areas such as the scalp or chest
• Sticks are useful in applying sunscreen around the eyes
• Sprays are useful to apply on children, but note that it can be difficult to tell how well you are applying.

Be Proactive
Remember, early detection saves lives and a simple, yearly in-office skin screening with your local board-certified Forefront Dermatologist can truly mean the difference between life and death. Contact us today to schedule your annual skin screening.

Sun Safety for a Spring Break Vacation on the Slopes

Not all spring break vacations are on the beach. If you are taking a ski vacation this Spring Break, you have most likely thought of just about everything–but take a few minutes to review some information to protect your skin!

Don’t Skimp on Sunscreen
You can sunburn on a mountaintop just as easily as you can on a beach. Sunscreen is important even in the dead of winter, and it’s even more important when skiing in the spring. When you’re hitting the slopes, you’re particularly vulnerable to increased radiation due to reflection and altitude and decreased sunscreen performance due to the wind.

  • Reflection: Because white is reflective, you end up get a double dose of radiation – directly from the sun and bouncing off the snow.
  • Altitude: The further away from sea level you get, the greater your exposure to UV rays. For every 1,000 feet above sea level you climb, UV exposure increases 8-10 percent.
  • Wind: Coupled with cold temperatures and abrasive ice particles, wind wears away sunscreen, making more frequent reapplication necessary. Windburn can be just as irritating and damaging as sunburn, so general skin protection is good policy.

Protect Yourself From Frostbite
Although it is incredibly unusual in everyday life, participating in outdoor winter sports like skiing can increase your chances of frostbite. Frostbite happens when your skin is exposed to extreme temperatures, causing your body to go into self-preservation mode. Blood vessels in your extremities constrict to better preserve your core temperatures. With prolonged exposure, those constricted blood vessels begin to die. Depending on the severity of exposure, this can cause an uncomfortable stinging sensation and discoloration in mild cases to permanent loss of feeling to amputation when severe. For more information on identifying and preventing frostbite see our post “How to Tell if You Have Frostbite (And What to Do About It).”

Moisturizing Is Very Important
The cold, dry mountain air makes proper hydration a chore for even the healthiest skin. The result is very itchy, irritating, and unsightly dry skin. After you’ve hung up your skis for the day, help it heal with some much-needed moisture.

  • Texture: Opt for a balm or cream rather than a lotion. They contain less alcohol (a drying agent), last longer, and penetrate deeper into the skin.
  • Additives: Masking agents, found in both scented and unscented lotions and body washes, can further dry out the skin. Make sure your products are fragrance-free.
  • Replenish: After showering down, be sure to moisturize within 3 minutes toweling off. The process of bathing strips your skin of its natural oils, so they need to be replenished as quickly as possible.
  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol to keep yourself hydrated from the inside.

Your Local Skin Experts at Forefront Dermatology are Here to Help

Establishing a relationship with a board-certified dermatologist is an important step you should take to keep your skin healthy, especially if you suffer from an itchy, painful, or irritating skin condition. If you or a family member have a skin concern or would like to schedule a consult, find the Forefront dermatologist nearest you to schedule an appointment or to learn more.

Sun Safety for a Spring Break Vacation at the Beach

If you are traveling to a warm destination for Spring Break, or even if you will be spending some extra time outdoors at home, it’s time to brush up on your sun safety tips. Remember, the sun’s rays are already getting very strong in spring during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you are traveling to a warm Spring Break location, you need to be extra vigilant about sun safety because the sun is extremely strong in tropical locations and you can get a sunburn in just minutes. Tanning and even one sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer.

Follow the tips below to protect yourself and your family this Spring Break:

  • Seek shade outdoors whenever possible.
  • Apply sunscreen of at least an SPF of 30 or higher in the morning. Remember to reapply it throughout the day, especially when getting in and out of water.
  • Use a protective lip balm with an SPF 30 or higher and reapply it throughout the day. Lips receive more sun exposure than any other part of the body.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves and pants, darker colors, and clothing with UV protection when possible. Many clothing manufacturers now offer stylish UPF-clothes that offer all-day protection.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat. While baseball caps are very popular with kids and do a great job of protecting the scalp, they don’t protect the cheeks, ears and neck. If you select a baseball hat, be sure you also thoroughly cover the face, ears, and neck with sunscreen.
  • Wear UV-protecting sunglasses when you are outdoors. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts and an increased risk of ocular melanoma.

For More Information on Sun Safety
If you would like to speak to a board-certified dermatologist about sun safety or any other skincare topics, find a Forefront dermatologist near you to schedule an appointment.

Preventing Dry Skin in Winter Weather

In honor of National Healthy Skin Month, we’re devoting November to raising awareness about the skin, your body’s largest organ, and how to keep it vibrant and healthy. This week, we will discuss how you can avoid dry skin this winter.

As the season shifts towards winter, the temperature starts to drop and the humidity begins to fall. The cool, dry air accelerates water loss from the skin, which can leave skin looking rough, dry, and dull. Here are some tips to counter skin dehydration and keep your skin looking radiant and feeling fresh.

Cleanse and Moisturize

To prepare your skin for winter, you will need to modify your daily skin care regimen. Select a mild, hydrating cleanser for the face and a gentle, hydrating body wash. According to Christian Millett, a board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, “It is important to avoid long, hot showers, which can lead to even further dehydration of the skin. Instead, use lukewarm water and limit showers to 10 minutes and only once a day.” After washing, pat your skin dry and then apply a moisturizer, making sure to reapply throughout the day.  Use a thick, cream-based moisturizer for the body in order to lock in moisture and keep the skin hydrated. For the face, use a facial moisturizer that will protect and hydrate without clogging the pores. Using a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air can also help to reduce water loss from the skin.

Continue to Use Sunscreen

Even though the solar radiation is less intense in the winter, it is still important to protect your skin from the damaging UV rays of the sun. This is especially true during the peak daylight hours from 10 AM to 4 PM. Daily use of a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 can help prevent sun damage and keep the skin looking youthful and vibrant. Just remember to reapply every couple of hours if you’re going to be outside.

Hands and Lips

Hands and lips in particular can become very dry and cracked during the winter, as the lack of oil glands in these areas can make them difficult to keep moisturized. Avoid frequent hand washing and instead use an alcohol-free hand sanitizer. When you do wash, moisturize immediately after with a thick hand cream to minimize cracking and keep your skin soft. When going outside, wear gloves with a cotton liner. Cotton gloves can also be worn overnight after moisturizing to help increase absorption of your moisturizer. For the lips, use a thick ointment or protective balm with SPF, and reapply it throughout the day.

Exfoliate
Dehydrated skin can show signs of dryness, including flaking, scaling, and cracking. Dead skin cells can prevent moisturizer from absorbing completely, so use a mild exfoliator once or twice a week to prevent buildup.

Avoid using harsh peels, toners, and astringents which can remove oil from the skin. Instead of foaming scrubs, use hydrating scrubs to gently remove old skin cells without stripping the skin of its moisture.

Your Local Skin Experts at Forefront Dermatology are here to Help
Establishing a relationship with a board-certified dermatologist is an important step you should take to keep your skin healthy. If you or a family member have a skin concern or would like to schedule a consult, find the Forefront dermatologist nearest you to schedule an appointment or to learn more.