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The effects of daily, chronic cumulative UV damage can not only result in an increased rate of skin cancer but also premature aging of the skin. When we only think about wearing sunscreen at the beach or the pool, we are missing the fact that the daily sun we expose our skin to while driving, while playing sports, while walking the dog is the same sun that our skin sees at the beach and has the same damaging impact!
Clouds only really block about 20% of UV light. Remember, ultraviolet light is invisible. Sunlight is made up of both UV light and visible light. Even though the visible light may be blocked, the UV is still coming through. Some of the worst sunburns I have seen occurred on cloudy days. This was simply a result of the fact that we get a false sense of security from the darker skies and believe we don’t need to be as careful with sunscreen on these days. This is not true! We need to protect our skin everyday!!
I see the impact of this every day. I perform close to 150 skin cancer screenings on a weekly basis and have over 30,000 patients in my practice. When I ask my patients if they are wearing their sun screen they often say yes- I wear it at the beach! We are still seeing high incidences of skin cancer. The every day sun exposure needs to be addressed to start to see changes in this incidence. I also routinely find that my patients will ask why they are still seeing so many new freckles even though they wear sunscreen at the beach! They, again, are just not recognizing the effects of chronic sun damage.
The winter time- skiing and snow sports- can really affect our skin. Fresh snow can reflect and magnify UV- it can as much as double your UV exposure! Ski instructors and resort employees actually have very high incidences of skin cancer. In Utah, two ski resorts had about a 10% incidence of skin cancer with 20% of their employees referred for biopsies.Wearing zinc or titanium based sunscreens is essential. Reapplying is essential- many do not remember to do this key step as they just don’t think of it as wearing off without true water exposure like in a pool or an ocean.
It’s important to always cover exposed areas with sunscreen year round. The best routine is to apply sunscreen before getting dressed to avoid missing any areas. If you are not sweating, swimming, or spending lots of time outdoors, you may not necessarily need to reapply. However if you are, it’s important to reapply especially during peek sun exposure midday.
If you look down and your shadow is shorter than you and you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors- reapply.If you are sweating or swimming- reapply every hour.