Skin Cancer Awareness Month: how to protect your skin from the sun

Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 3:37 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - More sunny days are on the horizon, which means many of us are already spending more days outside. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and experts at Ochsner have tips on the importance of summer skin care.

Dr. Kelli Hall, Dermatologist at Ochsner, said summer skin care is important because your skin is your body’s biggest organ and accounts for about 15% of your body weight. She said that hydration is a big part of skin care in addition to sunblock and sun proof clothing.

No one likes getting sunburnt, but is there any such thing as a healthy tan?

Hall said there’s no safe way to tan – darker skin color is a sign of damage. Tanning leads to premature aging, increased risk of skin cancer. She said sunburns can be very painful and, if they’re bad enough, could require a trip to the doctor, adding the best way to treat a sunburn is to avoid one.

What should we know about heat rashes?

  • Chlorine, heat, sweat are big triggers for skin conditions like eczema
  • Getting out of the pool, shower off as quickly as possible to rinse off chlorine
  • Products like Boudreaux’s Butt Paste for heat rashes, eczema flares

Hall said you should use about a shot glass worth of sunscreen to cover your body. You should see it on your skin and blend it in. She said protecting your face is also important. Remember to apply to your nose, ears and head. Eyelids are usually the thinnest skin on your body.

Is one kind of sunscreen better than another?

  • Two basic kinds – mineral and chemical.
  • Many dermatologists prefer mineral because of less skin absorption.

Does waterproof sunscreen really work?

  • It does, if used correctly.
  • Look for products labeled “very water-resistant.”
  • Need to reapply every time you get out of the pool or about every 1.5 – 2 hours.

Christina Rowley, a Dermatology Physicians’ Assistant at Ochsner, said it’s better to avoid outdoor activity during peak hours of sunlight. She said to minimize kids’ outdoor playtime, especially younger children.

Rowley said we might not feel the sun on a cloudy day, but it’s still there. If it’s cloudy or even rainy, you’re still getting about 80% of UV rays. You can protect yourself in the car with the windows down.

She said the best way to treat sunburns is to avoid them. You can use gentle skincare, cool compresses, aloe lotion or Vaseline. Rowley said you may need to see a medical professional depending on how much surface area is burned or blistering.

Dr. Nick Frank, a Mohs Surgeon at Ochsner, talked about Mohs surgery, which is precision surgery to treat skin cancer. Thin layers of cancerous skin are progressively removed and examined until only cancer-free tissue remains. He said the wound might be stitched to reduce scarring or when the natural healing process is inadequate.

Some advantages include the procedure being very quick and precise. Frank said after the anesthetic is injected, it’s nearly painless and also very effective. For a standard tumor treated for the first time, success rates are as high as 98 to 99%.

Recovery time for Mohs surgery, depending on the size takes up to 4 to 6 weeks. Infection, bleeding and pain are rare.

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