Every year, over 80,000 Canadians are diagnosed with skin cancer. It’s one of the most common types of cancer, but it’s also the most easily prevented. With this month being Skin Cancer Awareness Month – and with summer sun, shorts, bathing suits, and sandals just around the corner – we wanted to share with you a few tips to help you protect your skin and keep it healthy all summer long:

1.     Find Shade during Mid-Day to Protect Your Skin

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are the strongest between 10am and 4pm. During those peak hours, seek shade as often as you can – whether under umbrellas, awnings, or trees – and avoid reflected UV rays.

Remember the “shadow rule.” UV radiation will be stronger if your shadow is shorter than you. When your shadow is longer, UV radiation will be weaker.

2.     Use Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for Protection

Use broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB) with an SPF of at least 15 every day. If you’re going to be outside for extended amounts of time, use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more.

When applying sunscreen, you should:

  • Apply 2 tablespoons over your whole body 20-30 minutes before exposing your skin to sun. That will give your skin time to absorb it and make it more effective in action.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours throughout the day. If you’re getting wet or sweating a lot, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen more often.
  • Take extra precaution if you have fairer skin. Consider applying a layer of sunscreen the night before, which will give it time to fully absorb into your skin’s outer layer. Apply another coat the next day about 30 minutes before going outside.

3.     Moisturize Your Skin to Keep it Hydrated

Summertime humidity and heat can wreak havoc on your skin. In addition to using sunscreen before going out in the sun, make sure you moisturize your skin regularly to keep it healthy:

  • Protect vulnerable areas on your face, especially around your eyes and mouth. Over time, sun damage will cause wrinkling and discolouration. Use creams and balms with an SPF to keep skin protected during the day and hydrating creams overnight.
  • Look after your neck and chest. Your chest is one of the most easily sunburned areas and also one of the most often overlooked. Protect and moisturize it regularly to keep it healthy.
  • Remember to care for your feet. Summer is the season of sandals and sunburned toes. If you’re wearing open shoes, you’ll need to reapply sunscreen often as it’s more prone to rubbing off on straps.

You’ll want to exfoliate your skin 1-2 times per week if it’s dry or 2-3 times per week if it’s oily. That will help get rid of existing sun damage, leaving your skin soft, smooth, and rejuvenated.

4.     Examine Your Skin Monthly and See Your Doctor Yearly

Self-exams aren’t a replacement for annual check-ups with your doctor, but they will help you find early warning signs of skin cancer.

When checking for skin cancers, remember the ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry: If you draw a line through the middle of a benign mole, its two halves should mirror each other. Asymmetry is a warning sign that that mole might not be harmless.
  • Borders: Most benign moles have even, smooth borders. Skin cancers, by comparison, commonly have notched or scalloped edges.
  • Colours: A benign mole is usually a single shade of brown. If it’s more varied – including different hues of browns, tans, or blacks – that’s a bad sign.
  • Diameter: Skin cancers are often larger than benign moles, typically exceeding 6mm (about the size of the eraser on a pencil tip). Be careful, though. They might be smaller than that when you first detect them.
  • Evolution: A benign mole will stay the same over time. Any changes – whether in shape, size, colour, elevation, or another symptom – should be cause for concern.

Even if you don’t find any trouble spots yourself, it’s important to see your doctor yearly for a professional skin exam and protect it to keep it healthy for years to come.

Click here to learn more about Skin Cancer from the Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation.

At Brampton Cosmetic, we provide a range of skin health products including Elta MD sunscreens, developed using transparent zinc oxide – a natural mineral compound – to provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. Contact us today to learn more!

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About Dr. Robert Sleightholm

Dr. Robert Sleightholm is one of the founders of the Brampton Cosmetic Surgery Center and Medical Spa. He is the clinic’s Director of Surgery and, since its opening in 1994, has safely and successfully completed more than 200 cosmetic surgery procedures each year. An Ontario plastic surgery veteran, he is a board-certified Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada (FRCSC).

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