November is an important month, and it isn’t just because Thanksgiving is fast approaching. November is National Healthy Skin Month, and here are some ways to make sure you’re celebrating this month to its fullest.
National Healthy Skin Month was created by the American Academy of Dermatology Association to emphasize the importance of achieving and maintaining healthy, sun safe skin. The first thing most people associate with healthy skin is a glowing, clear complexion that’s free of blemishes and wrinkles. This is, of course, very healthy skin. But the reason it’s healthy isn’t just a good nightly skincare routine. The only healthy skin is skin that’s been protected against sun damage. The primary cause of skin cancer is sun damage. People who have had 5 or more blistering sunburns in their lives are 80% more likely to develop melanoma. Melanoma is just one of many different types of skin cancer, but it’s by far the most deadly. Other common types of skin cancer include basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. These types of skin cancer are both more common than melanoma but don’t spread as quickly, so they have higher survival rates. Skin cancer awareness isn’t supposed to scare you, but these are serious topics. Knowing why you’re going that extra mile to protect your skin can help motivate you to stick with it.
So how can you celebrate your healthy skin and make sure that it stays healthy? Here are some good places to start.
The best thing you can do to prevent skin cancer and keep your skin looking and feeling healthier and younger is to use sunscreen. Daily sunscreen of 15 SPF or higher in your makeup or moisturizer is good for your face, but if you’re anticipating sun exposure, go higher. Use sunscreen on any skin that may be exposed to sunlight. SPF 30 or higher is your best bet for year-round protection. Sunscreen works by either blocking or absorbing the harmful ultraviolet radiation contained within sunlight. UV light creates skin cancer by causing damage to the DNA within our skin cells. When damaged DNA attempts to rebuild, it sometimes mutates and begins replicating wildly. This unchecked cellular growth is cancer. Sunscreen is not always fun to deal with or remember, but you should always use it. The benefits of preventing sun damage far outweigh the small addition to your routine.
In the summer, heading out to the beach and soaking up the sun are among the worst things you can do. Tanning, or intentionally exposing your skin to UV light, is the leading cause of America’s growing melanoma rates. The sun may feel nice, but too much of a good thing is decidedly not nice in this instance. Cover up your skin when you’re outdoors, which isn’t too difficult in the winter. But don’t let the cold fool you; the sun can still burn you even if it isn’t as bright this time of year. If you’re out enjoying the weather, wear long sleeves, a hat, and sunglasses. Still wear that sunscreen too!
The best way to prevent skin cancer from causing harm is to detect it early. You should perform regular self exams, looking over your skin for any changes. Look for irregular, new, or changing moles as well as dry, rough, and scaly patches of skin on areas where you’ve previously had sun damage. These early warning signs of skin cancer, if found early, can be easily treated. Melanoma often resembles a mole, but just as it can appear suddenly, it can also develop on an existing blemish. In addition to checking your own skin, schedule semi-regular trips to the dermatologist for a full, in-office evaluation.
Achieving and maintaining healthy skin doesn’t have to be a chore, but it should absolutely be a focus—this National Healthy Skin Month and year round. Do you have questions about preventing sun damage and protecting your skin? The experts at Pacific Dermatology Specialists are here for you.