One of the best things about my job as a writer is that I'm constantly learning new information. I write about wellness, skin care, skin health, lifestyle, and more, so I'm always expanding my knowledge about these topics—and it often comes in handy.
As a skin care writer, I've learned a lot about various skin conditions and how to care for them, like acne treatment and skin cancer prevention. Both of these have affected me personally, and I've learned the steps needed to make impactful changes. Through my writing and research, I've managed to clear up my skin and protect it from the sun.
I've also learned the importance of prevention, especially when it comes to skin cancer. It's one of the most commonly diagnosed forms of cancer, affecting one in five Americans. I also know several people who have personally experienced skin cancer at least once in their lifetime, which has motivated me to take action.
The Office of the Surgeon General states that most cases of skin cancer are preventable, so you don't have to feel powerless against the risk of developing skin cancer. Here's what I've learned about skin cancer prevention and how I've turned it into a checklist for better skin protection and care.
My Sun Care Journey
My sun care journey is a winding one. As a child, I spent hours upon hours in the sun—playing outside with my brother, going to the lake with my family, and enjoying various outdoor outings. My mom tried to get my brother and me to wear sunglasses, hats, and sunscreen, but that doesn't always go over well with kids. Now, I wish I had listened to my mom as a child because most sun exposure occurs before the age of 18, heightening your risk of developing skin cancer later in life, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
It wasn't until I was a young adult working for a skin care company that I learned the importance of proper sun protection. A colleague had developed skin cancer multiple times, and a family friend experienced it, as well. This was the reality check I needed.
I started slowly. One of my first SPF products as an adult was a tinted moisturizer with SPF 30. While this is a good starting point, makeup and skin care with SPF isn't always effective; tinted sunscreen is a better option here. I also started to wear sunglasses and sun hats frequently, especially while driving and on family trips.
After a couple of years, my knowledge of skin cancer and its prevalence deepened. I learned that protecting your skin from the sun's harmful rays doesn't have to be a chore. There are simple ways to care for your skin, and the benefits are huge. I also try to spread awareness to my family and friends because taking care of your skin is so important for a long, healthy life.
My Skin Cancer Prevention Checklist
Caption: Sun-protective clothing is great when you can't avoid being outside.
Today, I consider myself well-informed on skin cancer prevention seeing as I've been learning about it in my professional and personal life for several years. I use the following checklist to make sure I'm doing the most for my skin while enjoying time outdoors.
1. Wear Sun-Protective Clothing
Reducing the risk of skin cancer boils down to reducing your ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. When you can't avoid the sun, wearing clothing that offers protection is a great compromise. This can include wearing layers that physically cover the skin, like lightweight long-sleeve shirts and pants, as well as accessories like wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and even driving gloves.
Certain types of fabrics offer more protection than others. I've invested in pieces of clothing that have a UPF, or ultraviolet protection factor, rating. This is much like choosing your sunscreen based on SPF, but for clothes! A UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun's rays and allows only 2 percent (1/50th) to penetrate, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
2. Apply—and Reapply—Sunscreen Every Day
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that daily use of sunscreen lowers your risk of skin cancer, so this is a practice I've implemented in my everyday routine. I still use a tinted moisturizer with SPF, then I follow it up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen for my face, neck, chest, and hands.
If other areas of my skin are exposed, like my arms and legs, I apply a body sunscreen to those areas, as well. I'm also mindful of commonly missed areas, like the ears, back of the neck, lips, eyelids, and tops of the feet.
I'm very selective with sunscreens, and I try to stick to physical or mineral sunscreens because chemical filters can irritate my sensitive eyes. My favorite facial sunscreen is the EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+. I particularly like the lightweight texture of this sunscreen; it applies effortlessly, doesn't leave a white cast, and gives my skin a healthy-looking glow.
3. Conduct Frequent At-Home Skin Checks
In-between visits to the Dermatologist, you should perform a skin self-exam. I certainly do! A few times a month, I take a close look at my skin, paying extra attention to any moles or marks. Taking note of any changes can help with the early detection of skin cancer.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends examining spots, moles, and marks on your skin that are unusual. Signs to look out for include itching, bleeding, and unusual or changing presentation on the skin. If you notice anything that has significantly changed in appearance or otherwise looks concerning, make an appointment with a board-certified Dermatologist.
4. Seek Shade During Peak Sunny Times
If I'm outside, especially during midday, there's a good chance you'll find me under a shady tree or in an area out of direct sunlight. This further protects my skin from accumulative sun exposure, and it just feels nice on a super hot day.
When you're outside—especially when the UV index is high—try to stay out of direct sunlight. Seek shade to reduce your sun exposure. Ultimately, your skin will thank you.
5. Visit the Dermatologist Yearly
I'll be honest: I didn't know you were supposed to see a Dermatologist regularly until I was an adult. Now, I see a Dermatologist once per year for an annual exam, as recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. If you have a higher risk of skin cancer, you may need to see a Dermatologist more frequently. These visits give me a chance to bring up any skin concerns, discuss my skin care routine, and achieve peace of mind that my sun care efforts are keeping my skin healthy, happy, and vibrant.