Father’s Day celebrations often mean spending time outdoors for barbeques, baseball games, and other summer fun. Since restaurants and other favorite locations for celebrating are limiting numbers or staying closed during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many families are choosing to celebrate dad right in their own backyards. Whether your father likes to celebrate with a picnic, a walk, or a game of soccer, don’t forget to remind dad about the importance of sun protection. Men are, generally, much less likely than women to take preventive healthcare measures, including applying sunscreen. For this reason, men may be at greater risk for skin cancers and other health concerns associated with sun exposure. We all want our dads to stick around for a long time, so encourage yours to apply sunscreen liberally on Father’s Day and every day. In this blog, we will share more about the importance of taking sun protection steps and offer tips for men to help them keep their skin safe and healthy.
Why is Sun Protection so Important?
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, men need to be very aware of their risks for sun-related damage, including skin cancer. There are many types of skin cancer and all types need to be addressed with appropriate treatment. However, melanoma is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer. This aggressive cancer is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body and often develops quickly. Studies conducted by the Skin Cancer Foundation have found that men under 49 are more likely to develop melanoma than any other type of cancer, and the majority of people diagnosed with melanoma in the U.S. are men over the age of 55. Significantly, men also seem to be more likely to die from melanoma than women diagnosed in the same age ranges.
There are many reasons why men may be more impacted by skin cancers than women. Studies indicate that men spend more time in the sun than women throughout their lifetimes, and they are less likely to protect their skin (only about 14% of men use sunscreen on exposed areas) from sun damage. Additionally, men (especially younger men) are less likely to seek treatment in the early stages of skin cancer when the disease is most responsive to treatment methods.
Top 10 Sun Protection Tips for Men
Whatever the reason, the numbers pertaining to men’s risk for skin cancers, especially in men over 50, are staggering. It’s so important that men of all ages take the appropriate steps to protect their skin and seek treatment as soon as possible if skin cancer develops. Below are tips to help men better protect their skin from sun damage and prevent skin cancers.
1 – Wear Sunscreen Daily
Many of us spend the majority of our time indoors. While this significantly reduces the risk of skin damage from sun exposure, it doesn’t entirely eliminate risk. Even inside our cars, homes, and office buildings, certain types of UV rays can reach your skin through windows. Daily sunscreen can usually be applied quickly to just the parts of the body that will be exposed to the sun’s rays (face, head, neck, arms, hands, etc.). If you’re going to be outdoors for an extended time, make sure to reapply at least every two to three hours.
Sunscreen is not just for summer beach days. A common myth is that sunscreen doesn’t need to be worn on cloudy or cold winter days. While clouds may filter sunlight, the majority of UV rays can penetrate through clouds. In the winter, snow can reflect UV rays and lead to significant UV exposure.
2 – Choose a Mineral or Chemical Sunscreen
In general, using a mineral or chemical/synthetic based sunscreen is a matter of personal preference. We usually recommend a mineral sunscreen for most of our patients. The sunscreens are effective immediately, and the new formulations are cosmetically elegant.
How do you know if your sunscreen is mineral or chemical-based? We tell our patients to flip the bottle around, look at the active ingredients, and look for the words zinc or titanium oxide. If those are the main active ingredients, it’s a mineral sunscreen – anything else and it’s a chemical blocker.
3 – Choose the Right Sun Protection Factor (SPF)
In addition to choosing a sunscreen that fits your skin type, you need to select the right sun protection factor (SPF). The most common recommendation is for patients to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours.
Whether patients should wear SPFs higher than 30 is controversial. Theoretically, an SPF of 30 should block 97% of UV rays and give you all the sun protection you need. But studies have shown that the average American only applies half the amount that is tested in the lab. If you apply half the amount of an SPF-30 sunscreen, you’re only getting an SPF of about 6. We generally recommend our patients wear higher SPF sunscreens, or else apply two coats. The danger of using a high SPF sunscreen is that people often don’t reapply or they assume they’re invulnerable to the sun, which can lead to worse sunburns – so it’s important to keep up the re-application and still exercise caution.
4 – Use Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Sunlight is made up of two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays – UVA and UVB. Both UVA and UVB rays can damage the skin, but UVB rays are the primary source of damage leading to sunburns and skin cancer. Because both UVA and UVB rays can damage skin, you’ll need a sunscreen product that protects against both. The “SPF” of a sunscreen only indicates its protection against UVB. The “broad spectrum” designation on your sunscreen bottle indicates that it protects against UVA as well.
5 – Know the Areas that Need Extra Coverage
Any part of the body that will receive regular sun exposure needs to be coated in sunblock every day. This includes the hands, face, neck, and ears. For men who are balding, it can be especially important to protect the sensitive skin on the head.
6 – Protect Your Lips
Many people forget to protect their lips when applying sunscreen, but skin cancer can strike anywhere, including the mouth. It may be beneficial to choose a lip balm with SPF for daily use. While many types of lip balm have drying agents like alcohol as their first ingredient, most lip balms that are formulated with products that provide sun protection also have ingredients that moisturize like Aloe, and that seal in moisture and protect the skin like bee’s wax and petrolatum. They’ll keep your skin moisturized and safe from sun exposure – it’s a win-win.
7 – Follow the Application Directions & Don’t Forget to Reapply!
Chemical sunscreens need to be applied 15 to 30 minutes before you go outside, so make sure you read the directions carefully and apply as directed. The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to sunscreen is that they don’t apply enough. For the face, hands, arms, and legs, you’ll need about a shot glass full of sunblock for each application to fully coat the skin. The second biggest mistake people make is forgetting to reapply. If you have the tendency to forget, set an alarm on your phone to go off every two hours as a reminder. Without reapplication, sunscreen loses its efficacy, and your skin is exposed to potential damage.
8 – Cover Up, Seek Shade & Take Breaks
In addition to sunscreen, you should also take other steps to cover your skin and limit sun exposure, especially if you’re planning to be outdoors for a significant period. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and wide-brimmed hats when possible to reduce sun exposure. This can be especially important if you work outdoors. You can also stay under an umbrella or in a shady location and take breaks from direct sun exposure periodically.
9 – Avoid Spending Time Outdoors During Peak Hours
The sun’s UV rays are most likely to cause harm during peak hours from 10 am to 4 pm. If you’re going to be outdoors during these hours, make sure to apply sunscreen regularly. You should also cover up, seek shade, and take breaks indoors when possible.
10 – Complete Skin Self-Exams Regularly & Schedule Professional Exams Annually
Even the most diligent sun protection regimen may not be enough to prevent skin cancer. If you have a family history of skin cancer, are exposed to high levels of UVA/UVB rays regularly, or are otherwise at increased risk for skin cancer, you should be completing a skin cancer self-exam at least once a month. These exams are simple. Just look at your whole body from head to toe and note any new moles, skin tone or texture changes, or other differences from month to month. At least once each year, you should have a professional skin cancer exam with your dermatologist.
What if You get a Sunburn?
Sunburns can dramatically increase the risk for developing skin cancer, so it’s important to protect skin during sun exposure. If you end up with a sunburn despite your best efforts, you should do your best to treat it. Restoring your skin’s health will help to prevent more serious concerns like infections. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following steps to heal sunburned skin:
- Take cool baths or showers frequently
- Apply a moisturizer after you bathe or shower
- Use a moisturizer with aloe or soy to soothe skin
- Take pain relievers as needed to address discomfort
- Sunburns can pull moisture out of the body, so drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
- If you have blisters, don’t pop them as they protect burned skin from infection and damage
- Keep sunburned skin protected from sun exposure as it heals
Visit U.S. Dermatology Partners for Sun Protection & Skin Health Recommendations
If you’re concerned about skin cancer or want some personalized recommendations for sun protection and skincare, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team would love to hear from you. Our knowledgeable dermatologists take pride in offering at-home skincare recommendations, skin cancer screenings, and skin cancer treatments that are fitted to your individual needs. We are happy to welcome patients back to our offices for in-person appointments. You can use our simple online request form to schedule an appointment in one of our practices.
In addition to in-office appointments, one of our dermatologists would be happy to meet with you online if you prefer, using a secure, HIPAA compliant video chat platform. You can also request a teledermatology visit using our secure online form. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our offices if you have specific questions.
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