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Sun Safety: Stop the Damage!

family in sun

“Sun protection and anti-aging go hand in hand,” said Julia Sabetta, MD, a Greenwich dermatologist. “Whether it’s a bad sunburn or a suntan, your skin never forgets. All that damage accumulates.”

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of cancer worldwide, with 4 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. “Fortunately, skin cancer and most of the manifestations of aging skin can be prevented or minimized,” said Dr. Sabetta.

Experts offer these sun safety tips.

Choose sunscreen wisely. Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. Apply 1 ounce of sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours; more often if swimming or sweating excessively. Chemical-free sunscreens rinse off easily, so reapply more often. Check the sunscreen’s consistency to ensure it sticks to the skin; spray-on sunscreens don’t adhere as well. “Experiment until you find a sunscreen you and your family like,” said Dr. Sabetta. “You’re more likely to use a sunscreen if you like the product.”

Minimize sun exposure. Seek the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm. Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat. Wear sun protective clothing specially designed to protect against UV rays that cause skin cancer and sunburn. Use UV-blocking sunglasses.

Avoid tanning beds. “There is absolutely no good reason to use a tanning bed,” said Dr. Sabetta. “The rays emitted by a tanning bed penetrate the skin deeper than the rays from the sun.”

Repair the sun damage. Dermatologists can treat signs of sun damage such as brown spots with intense light pulse therapy and photodynamic therapy. “These treatments can help reverse sun damage and improve the appearance of your skin cosmetically,” she said.