In Minnesota, we only get a few short months of good sunny weather before it’s back to layered clothing, snowy roads and avoiding the outside where our face hurts. Because our time in the bright sunshine is so limited, we typically want to soak up as much of it as possible. While you enjoy the outdoors this year, don’t forget about sun protection!
Comfort and health gains
It happens every summer. We tell ourselves, “I want a tan!” or “I don’t usually burn…” or “It’s only a few hours!” and we skip the sunscreen. Flash forward to when your skin resembles a tomato and you can barely shower without it stinging. For the next three days, while your itchy skin peels away like you’re a molting snake, you regret not spending those two quick minutes slathering on that magic lotion. Two minutes of effort, long-term gain!
What are some of the other benefits of using sunscreen? In the short term, it keeps us from getting burned so that we can enjoy our vacations and look normal in photos. Long term, sunscreen protects us from harmful ultraviolet sun rays that cause deadly skin cancers. It also helps prevent our skin from aging faster. Nobody wants that.
Dr. Logan Kolb, a dermatologist at Olmsted Medical Center, says that sun exposure causes our skin to lose collagen which leads to wrinkles and brown “age spots” called lentigines. Simple things like seeking shade and wearing sun-protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses are very important for avoiding skin cancer and all those extra wrinkles nobody wants.
Cloudy with a chance of sunburn
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s cloudy. Do I still need sunscreen?” The answer is yes! Dr. Kolb says that even on cloudy days in January, sunscreen should be used. He suggests choosing a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
I know what else you’re thinking. “I heard that sunscreen actually causes skin cancer.” Dr. Kolb is here to ease your mind. “No study has ever linked sunscreen use with cancer,” he says. “However, excessive sun exposure without sunscreen use is known to significantly increase the risk of skin cancer.”
Okay, I know the last thing you’re thinking. “I just don’t think about applying sunscreen.” That’s why it’s important to use a daily moisturizer with sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Most of our sun exposure isn’t from going on vacations to the beach. It’s from living our daily lives, from doing things like going for a walk, running out to the mailbox, sitting near open windows and driving in the car. Make your life easier by making SPF a part of your morning routine, then you won’t have to think about it.
Instead, what you can think about is how much more fun you’ll have on vacation because your skin’s not in pain. And you can think about all the wonderful outdoor memories you can make without looking like a lobster.
Dr. Kolb’s Top Sunscreen Tips
- Apply a daily moisturizer with an SPF of 30 or higher on the head, neck and hands. These are common locations for “precancers” called actinic keratoses, skin cancers, and for aging of the skin that requires expensive procedures to correct.
- Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Reapply that sunscreen every two hours if there is ongoing sun exposure. Don’t forget to apply to commonly forgotten areas such as the tops of your feet, head and ears.