Outsmart the Sun at Any Age
The warmer months entice people of all ages to come forth from their winter havens - and most need to be reminded about the importance of sun protection. From young children to teens to mature adults, there are dozens of simple ways to change skin cancer prevention from a chore into a healthy habit.
Carol Drucker, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and board-certified dermatologist, knows sun protection is a lifelong necessity for everyone; the earlier individuals start, the better. From her experience at M. D. Anderson, the nation's top-ranked cancer center, Drucker has considerable expertise on reducing skin cancer risk, and has helpful summer skin care tips for every age.
Parents of Babies and Young Children
- Sunscreen should not be applied to babies younger than six months. Instead, cover babies and limit direct exposure to the sun to the extent possible.
- Make applying a waterproof sunscreen part of a toddler's routine before getting dressed every day. "It's important to find a sunscreen that kids can tolerate - not too heavy or greasy, so it feels good on the skin," says Drucker. "Parents may be surprised by how quickly their child becomes accustomed to this daily ritual."
- Try not to schedule outdoor activity between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and seek playgrounds where shade- from trees or awnings -is plentiful. If your child has to be outdoors during these hours, be sure they're protected from the sun with a hat, sunglasses, etc.
- Add SPF to the weekly wash. According to Drucker, relatively inexpensive products are available to put in the wash to add SPF protection to normal clothing for up to 20 washes. "This works great for kids of all ages, including stubborn teenagers - they won't even know it's there."
- "Teens do especially well with products that have built in SPF," advises Drucker. Teen girls who wear makeup should choose from the variety of products that include sunscreen. "Since it fits into products they already use, it's a painless step that provides valuable sun protection."
- Quit tanning beds. They emit the same harmful UV rays as sunlight and are used at dangerous rates. "For teens who insist on getting color, a spray-on tan is the only safe tan," says Drucker.
- Wear hats as a trendy accessory. Drucker notes sun damage frequently occurs on the face. "This season it's easy for teens to stock up on cute, stylish hats that will also shield their face in the sun."
- Be aware that the window glass in cars does not block all of the sun's harmful rays, making the driver's left side more prone to sun damage. Solutions Drucker offers include applying sunscreen before long car rides or installing shades or specialized tinting in car windows.
- Sun-proof hair. The top of the head becomes increasingly at risk for sun damage as hair thins or if the hair is parted. Style using hairsprays, shampoos and conditioners with SPF.
- Apply sunscreen to oft-forgotten areas - the top of ears, back of hands, neck and toes. Drucker warns, "These are four places that get a lot of incidental sun exposure."
- It is little known that wind intensifies sun damage says Drucker. "People should be especially careful during water sports or windy days at the beach when the chapping and burning effect of the wind acts as an additive to UV rays and can increase their risk of burning," she explains.