May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to go over what everyone should know about skin cancer, and what you should do to prevent it in yourself and your loved ones!
Skin cancer is very, very common. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined. Yes. And they aren’t all the deadly melanoma we hear about the most often, treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006. A whopping one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime!
Think you can’t get skin cancer? Think again! Each year, a diagnosis of melanoma is made in 1 per 100,000 people in African Americans, 4 per 100,000 in Hispanics, and 25 per 100,000 in non-Hispanic whites. Which means you can be any ethnicity and still be diagnosed. Melanomas in African Americans, Asians, Filipinos, Indonesians, and native Hawaiians most often occur on non-exposed skin with less pigment, with up to 60-75 percent of tumors arising on the palms, soles, mucous membranes and nail regions. The overall average 5-year melanoma survival rate for African Americans is only 75 percent, versus 93 percent for whites.
Yes, skin cancer can be scary, and roughly 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun! That means that there is something very easy you can do to prevent skin cancer. Yes, wear your sunscreen. Wear it every day.
1. Daily Sunscreen
Whether you’re spending a sunny day at the beach or just heading to work, you’ll be exposed to UV radiation from the sun and should be protecting yourself from the sun. While it’s been proven that daily sunscreen is best to help prevent aging, the same is likely true for skin cancer risk. You should be wearing sunscreen every day, and it should be in either your daily lotion or as a separate sunscreen. The amount in your makeup doesn’t count, you aren’t applying enough of it to reach the SPF value on the bottle. Make a habit of applying sun protection every morning!
2. SPF 30 or Higher
I’m sure you’ve heard that over a certain SPF value, it doesn’t matter right? Well, actually… it does matter. Because most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen, studies have found that we actually are getting about 20-50% of the stated SPF value simply because of incorrect application. So, it is better to start off with a higher SPF product to start with.
But what do the higher numbers really mean?
SPF 8 blocks 87% of UVB rays
SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays
SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays
SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays
That difference in 93% vs 98% of UVB rays may not sound like much, but it can be very important when you take into account incorrect sunscreen usage, especially if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer! Use the highest SPF you can use in order to be sure that you’re getting great UV protection.
3. Look for Full Spectrum Coverage
It isn’t enough to just look for the words “Broad Spectrum” on your sunscreen. Unfortunately, the way that the sunscreen label rules were written by the FDA, it is possible to have a broad spectrum sunscreen that doesn’t cover UVA II rays! The SPF is determined by the UVB coverage. If there’s enough UVA I coverage (at a certain wavelength) then it can be labelled as broad spectrum. Unfortunately, that means it is possible to have a good SPF and broad spectrum sunscreen that doesn’t cover the full spectrum. Check your sunscreen’s active ingredients to be sure you have a full spectrum product!
4. Apply at the Right Time
Your sunscreen needs to be applied to your skin before your makeup, and you should be applying it about 20-30 minutes before sun exposure to give it time to be absorbed and ready to protect your skin.
5. Apply the Right Amount
You’ll need to apply 1 ounce, roughly the amount of a shot glass, to your entire body to reach the correct coverage. You need about a teaspoon to cover the average adult face as well.
6. Reapply Often
To keep your SPF working, you’ll need to reapply pretty often. At least every 2 hours, and really more like every 90 minutes or so when you’re being exposed to a lot of sun, such as at the beach. You also need to reapply after water exposure, even if your sunscreen is water resistant.
Ideal Sunscreen Use Example
I thought it would be great to go through a “typical” sunscreen use example so you can see really how I use sunscreen!
One of my current favorites is PCA SKIN’s Weightless Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 45. I love that this sunscreen is lightweight, sinks in to your skin very easily and doesn’t feel heavy or sticky. You can use it on your face under makeup or all over your body. The formulation also contains anti-oxidants (Caffeine and Silybin from Milk Thistle plants) to help protect your skin from further sun damage. The UV protection is full spectrum, and with SPF 45 I’m protecting my pale, freckle-prone skin from a lot of UV damage. The higher SPF also means that even if I don’t apply quite enough I’m still likely to have a pretty high SPF value of protection.
I would apply this at home before getting dressed. Especially if I was heading to the beach or pool where I need to have sunscreen applied to areas like my back and upper legs. It is much easier to contort myself and reach every little spot on my body in the privacy of my own home! Applying before putting on my suit means I’ll have an even application all over, rather than missed spots right next to my suit. As well, this means that I’ll have 20-30 minutes before sun exposure so the product can fully absorb into my skin.
Once I leave, I’ll bring a bottle with me for reapplications. I’ll reapply every 2 hours and after swimming. Because this bottle is only 2.2 ounces, that means it is 2 full applications, plus a little extra, maybe an extra application to your face or shoulders? One bottle of sunscreen really is roughly 1 day out in the sun, not a full summer of protection!
Note that this is actually a face sunscreen! The teaspoon of recommended sunscreen for your face is really to reach about 0.8 g of product. Since this tube is 62.4 g, you’ll get months of use if you use it on your face. But, it’s about one day of high sun exposure activity to me, and I love how lightweight it is. I’ll be stocking up to use it at the zoo and other intensive sun locations this summer! It’s much nicer to wear than other, much heavier sunscreens.
In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, PCA SKIN is holding a photo contest to see your PCA SKIN sunscreen in action! For every photo submitted and every vote cast, PCA SKIN will donate $1 to The Skin Cancer Foundation.*
How to Enter:
Post a pic of your PCA SKIN sunscreen on Instagram with #imcovered and #pcaskincontest, or upload directly to PCA SKIN, you have until May 25! Voting is May 26-31, and each vote will also result in a donation. The grand prize winners (one from votes and one picked by PCA SKIN) will win a year’s supply of PCA SKIN broad spectrum sunscreen and an outdoor swag package worth over $800. It includes the sunscreen, a beach cruiser, a designer tote, aviator sunglasses and a summer fedora!