Even on the coldest days of a New England winter, the sun still poses a threat to our skin. Protecting from sun damage every day of the year is the best way to keep the probability of skin cancer as low as possible. Here are some keys to protecting your skin even when it’s not summer.
Perhaps the only benefit of cold weather is the fact that you’re already layered up in hats and coats. In the summer, keeping your exposed skin out of the sunlight is usually not your first priority if you’re trying to enjoy yourself. On mild winter days, it’s important that you still wear long sleeves and protect your skin from exposure to sunlight as much as possible. Hats and pants help as well. Winter activities like ice-fishing, skiing and snowshoeing are all great ways to stay active in the northeast, but they’re some of the easiest ways to get a sunburn in the winter. Though the sun is further from us in winter, that doesn’t keep harmful UV light from causing damage to your skin.
Sunscreen quickly goes from a necessity to an afterthought when summer gives way to fall. Department stores stock it less, and odds are you aren’t using it daily, but you should be. Sunscreen doesn’t expire very quickly, so use the stuff you bought in the summer, or stock up when it goes on clearance. Since you sweat less in the winter, and swimming is out of the question, a little goes a much longer way. If you’re going to be exposing your skin to sunlight, it should be protected by sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, with both UVA and UVB protection. Many kinds of makeup and moisturizers contain sunscreen, so opt for those over the ones that don’t. Most times, when products contain sunscreen they’re also better designed with your skin’s health in mind.
When there’s a high of 23 degrees and it feels like 11, you probably don’t need much convincing to stay inside. But avoiding exposure to UVA and UVB light should still be something you consider when you plan your day. Stay in and enjoy a movie or keep active at the gym rather than going for a run outside. If you do go out, remember your layers and sunscreen.
Look for signs of skin cancer year round. If you are at particularly high risk for developing skin cancer, visit your dermatologist for frequent evaluations. Common indicators of sun damage, and possible skin cancer include moles and actinic keratosis. Actinic keratosis is a skin condition often characterized by a dry and crusty or scaly lesion that appears on the skin. AK can appear in one or more places, and it’s not always visible to the naked eye. But if you feel discomfort in an area of skin on its own, or combined with other symptoms, it may be actinic keratosis, which is a warning sign for squamous cell carcinoma.
Melanoma, often mistaken for a mole, is a very deadly form of skin cancer. That’s why evaluations by an expert in dermatology are crucial for early detection. The leading cause of melanoma is sun damage, though it can appear anywhere on the body after years of accumulated sun exposure. It’s not so hard to treat melanoma if it’s caught early, so check your skin for evidence of melanoma and keep track of any changes or abnormalities.
This should go without saying, but some people are very devoted to their skin looking “sun-kissed” and will go to self-tanning salons. It isn’t hard to explain just how bad this is for you, given all that you’ve read above. Most people have seen the writing on the wall, and recognize that tanning beds are very harmful to your skin. If you usually tan, there’s no other advice than for you to stop. A tan is a sign of sun damage, and any sun damage can cause unsightly and possibly deadly lesions and blemishes. Try spray tanning if you need to tan, but if you want to remain healthy, you need to ditch the tanning bed.
Year round, we are at risk for sun damage and sunburns. If you need more advice on avoiding sun damage, or need to evaluate a sign of sun damage, contact the experts at Northeast Dermatology Associates today.
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