Customized Sun Protection

Although following general sun protection tips are important, there are also extra precautions for each of us, based on our individual needs.

When USF Health dermatologist Dr. Lucia Seminario-Vidal meets with patients, she identifies potential sun exposure risk factors for each individual patient.  It could be a dad who loves to fish, but never remembers to reapply sunscreen, or a new mom who doesn’t realize how sensitive her new baby’s skin is.

“Every patient is so different and so are their skin care needs, “ Dr. Seminario-Vidal said.

For Women

  • Apply sunscreen 10-15 minutes prior to applying any skin care product.
  • The coverage from makeup with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) varies according to how it is applied and therefore might not be as effective as sunscreen.
  • If you are looking for a shortcut, tinted sunscreens with SPF 30 or higher may be a good standalone option instead of foundation.
  • Sunscreen powders or tinted compacts with SPF are great options for touch-ups.
  • If you need to re-apply sunscreen, apply a physical sunscreen over makeup, not a chemical sunscreen. Makeup won’t allow the skin to absorb chemical sunscreens, so they won’t provide effective protection. Physical sunscreens work by creating a physical barrier between the skin and the sun and are better options to use over makeup.
  • Be aware that layering skin care products containing sunscreen doesn’t increase the SPF. You’ll only be protected by the highest SPF you’ve applied. For example, if you apply a sunscreen SPF of 30 and then a foundation with SPF 15 you will get only SPF of 30.

For Children and Teens

  • Avoid childhood sun burns. On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns.
  • Sun shirts, hats, and glasses are great if you are planning a day at the water park.
  • Check into your school’s guidelines on providing your child sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.  Provide sunscreen for your child’s locker. Many schools require either written permission to use sunscreen, or require that the school nurse apply it.  Hats and sunglasses might be banned as part of the dress code policy.  Encourage your child to seek shade.
  • Educate your teen on the risks of tanning beds, which include developing skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots.  Teens can think that having a tan equals looking healthy. If your teen is feeling peer pressure to go to the tanning bed, encourage them to use a self-tanner.
  • Most teenagers have oily skin and some degree of acne, so an oil-free, non-comedogenic sunscreen is recommended.

For Babies

  • Keep babies in the shade. Babies have much more sensitive skin than adults.
  • Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected from the sun using hats, sun glasses, and protective clothing.
  • Sunscreen can be applied to infants over 6 months old and toddlers. Choose a sunscreen made for babies or children with a SPF of 30 or greater. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that will more completely protect their skin.
  • Sunscreen sticks are a good option for the face because they are less likely to drip.

For Men 

  • Reapply sunscreen with a SPF 50 every two hours.  Men are exposed to more unprotected sun exposure than women over their lifetime due to leisure activities, as well as working outdoors.
  • Hats are especially important if a man’s hair is beginning to thin, as well as neck coverage.  Don’t forget to provide coverage of the ears with adequate sunscreen and to wear sunglasses, especially if you are enjoying water sports.
  • Make an appointment with a dermatologist, especially white men with lighter eyes who are most at risk for melanoma. White men over the age of 50 represent the majority of people who get melanoma.
  • Examine your skin regularly.  Men tend to discover growths later than women do, and catching problems later can make them more difficult to treat.

For Seniors

  • When you do go outside, it’s best to avoid peak sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and to stay hydrated when you are in the shade.
  • As we age, our skin thins and loses fat and water content, allowing UV light to penetrate more deeply. Use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Pay attention to dorsal hands and feet, which are known to have thin skin, as well as any bald spots in the scalp. Those areas require diligent application of sunscreen.
  • Our defenses against skin disease declines due to weakened immune systems (from certain diseases or medical treatments), poorer healing capacity, thinner skin, and damage from bodily assaults like smoking and pollution. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop many types of skin cancer, including squamous cell cancer and melanoma. People who smoke are at higher risk to develop squamous cell carcinomas, especially on the mouth.
  •  Review your medication list for their side effect profile. Certain topicals, orals, and injections can cause photosensitive reactions. These reactions include sunburn-like or eczema-like rashes.

“Skin cancers found early are almost always curable. Perform monthly head to toe self-examinations, and if you spot anything suspicious, like a new or changing lesion, see a board-certified dermatologist,” Dr. Seminario-Vidal said.  For your next skin screening, contact USF Health Dermatology at (813) 974-4744.  To learn more about UV rays and identifying the early signs of skin cancer, read our first blog, Stay In The Shade.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers

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