Taking steps to protect your skin from the sun helps prevent cancer, signs of aging
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
The benefits of wearing sunscreen have been known for three decades.
The sun is a major cause of skin cancer and signs of aging, which sunscreen can help prevent. But many people do not bother applying it regularly. They may slather it on for a day at the beach or amusement park to avoid a painful sunburn, but not more often than that.
Dermatologist Emily Lambert at Geneva General Hospital spends much time talking with patients about making sunscreen part of their daily routine.
“I think some people are not in the habit,” she said. “Everyone has aging of the skin and wrinkling. If those are things that bother you, that’s another reason.”
She advises using a facial lotion containing SPF-30 before leaving home in the morning. During the lunch hour, avoid exposure by using a physical barrier, such as a large brimmed hat while taking a walk or sitting under a patio umbrella at the café instead of in direct sunlight. Or apply a dusting of SPF powder if you wear makeup and do not want to take it off.
“If you’re wearing thick foundation, probably not a lot of sun is getting in there,” Lambert said. “With tinted moisturizer, you might want to reapply.”
Some people worry about applying chemical-based sunscreens to their skin.
Lambert said that physical sunscreens with zinc or titanium offer a good alternative.
“Protective shirts and pants and hats can help those who don’t want to apply something,” she added.
Sunscreen rated SPF 30-plus is ideal. Lambert said to apply one-half teaspoon on the face and one teaspoon on each extremity. Water resistant sunscreen is recommended while swimming or excessively sweating. Reapply sunscreen every couple of hours and after toweling off.
Many cosmetics contain SPF, which makes it easier to protect the skin for those who wear makeup. One of those is the TIM line, developed by Deanna Cahill, owner of The Brow Diva. She has worked in the makeup business for more than 30 years in Rochester.
“The importance of SPF in your skincare, whether it be a day cream or a tinted moisturizer, is because of the exposure that you get just from walking from the car to a building or walking out in a parking lot or taking a short walk,” Cahill said. “It’s the accumulation of the daily exposure we get from the sun that does the most damage.
“That’s why it’s important to wear sunscreen every day to protect your skin from the harmful rays. Vitamin D is great, but it’s also important to protect us from the harmful rays.”
Sunscreen is For Everybody
People of color often overlook sunscreen, according to a recent Consumer Reports survey of 2,007 people. The survey responses revealed that 61% of blacks and 23% of Hispanics said they never wear sunscreen. While it is true that skin containing more melanin is less prone to sun damage than lighter skin, it’s not a free pass to skip sunscreen. Darker skin can still suffer the effects of sun-induced damage, including sunburn, lines, wrinkles, spots and skin cancer.
“People of color can get skin cancers and can get very bad skin cancers, including melanoma on the bottoms of their feet,” Dermatologist Emily Lambert at Geneva General Hospital, said.
Considering how few ads for sunscreen include people of color, some may not bother with sunscreen because they do not think the products are meant for them.
Advertisers may feel that showing people with darker skin tones may cause people to mistake their natural skin tone for a suntan—the exact opposite effect of what their products are meant to do.
Nonetheless, the unspoken, incorrect message is that only people with light skin tone need sunscreen.
Another factor is the small selection of cosmetics that match darker skin tones. When it’s hard enough to find the right shade of tinted moisturizer or foundation, why worry about whether or not it contains SPF? Lighter skin tones have a much broader selection of products that are more widely available.