By Kathy Hubbard
The sky is blue, the hills are green, the hay in the field is turning yellow, and white waves on the azure lake are testament that this is going to be a beautiful day. Sitting next to me on the deck of one of my favorite eateries are three women in lovely bright summer-colored dresses spoiled only by their extremely red shoulders.
Yup, they forgot the sunscreen. It was all I could do not to say something like, “Are you out of your minds, you’re going to get cancer!” But, I didn’t know them and thought better of it. You, my dear readers, are not so lucky.
Lather up! Put on that sunscreen every time you leave the house and are going to be outside, even if only for a few minutes, even if it’s cloudy, even if it’s only an hour before sundown. Do it!
If you don’t believe it’s necessary, read this report from KTVU News: “A 24-year-old woman living in New York City is recovering from skin cancer on her face after she initially thought it was a pimple. Gibson Miller said she noticed the spot directly under her left eye hadn’t gone away for about a year, which was when she decided to see a doctor.”
The story goes on to say that she’d had an inkling that it was serious, but she didn’t know anything about skin cancer. The biopsy revealed stage 1 basal small cell carcinoma. The scary reality is that had the blemish been anywhere other than her face, she most likely would have continued to ignore it.
“My new tagline: sunscreen is sexy. Everyone needs to wear it no matter what you do in the sun,” Miller said.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and one person dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour. There are three ways you can protect yourself. Stay in the shade. Wear protective clothing. Generously apply sunscreen. Got it?
“There are two types of sunscreens,” The American Academy of Dermatology explains. “Physical sunscreen works like a shield; it sits on the surface of your skin, deflecting the sun’s rays. Look for the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Opt for this sunscreen if you have sensitive skin.
“Chemical sunscreen works as a sponge absorbing the sun’s rays. Look for one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. This formula tends to be easier to rub into the skin without leaving a white residue.”
AAD says that as long as it’s broad-spectrum, water resistant and has an SPF (sun protection factor) 30 or higher, it can effectively protect you from the sun.
“Make sure you reapply it every two hours, or after swimming or sweating,” they say.
I came across an interesting article in Medical News Today about making homemade sunscreen. Their take is, don’t do it. They reference a study that was conducted by a team of researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio that warns that online sunscreen recipes are not to be trusted.
“Homemade sunscreen products are risky because they are not regulated or tested for efficacy like commercial sunscreens. When you make it yourself, you don’t know if it’s safe or effective,” Lara McKenzie, PhD, the study’s co-author.
Apparently these recipes are all over the social media platform Pinterest, which has an estimated 77.4 million users. The researchers said that theirs is the first study to look at do-it-yourself sunscreens. They found that these recipe posts made claims as to the SPF ranking anywhere from two to fifty.
“However, the researchers warn that such claims can be misleading, since the ingredients featured in those recipes actually offer minimal protection against UV radiation,” the article said.
As with everything, it’s always buyer be aware and read the ingredient labels carefully. If you have any questions about whether a particular sunscreen will be effective for you and your children consult your primary care provider or a dermatologist. You can do it while you have your skin check-up every year!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at email@example.com.