SPF (Save Pretty Faces)

You may have seen the recent press coverage of Patricia Krentcil, the New Jersey mother who was accused of taking her 5-year-old child into a tanning booth.  OK, conjure up her (very scary) image for a second.  Did you know she’s only 44 years old?   Aside from the burnt orange hue, her skin looks awful – like something you’d see on a leather couch in the clearance section of a furniture store.  I admit it, I like to be tan.  But I also like looking my age…

Be Vain for the Long-Term:   Sun damage is one of the easiest ways to age your skin.  I’m sure you know this. But it’s probably hard to remember when summer comes around and you want to have a “base tan” – or whatever other excuse you give yourself for willful exposure to UV rays.  If you’re at least in your mid-30s, you can see what overdoses of UV exposure can do.  Look at photos of the girls who spent a good deal of time at the tanning salon all through high school.  Then, look at photos of those who didn’t.  If you don’t see a difference, either they changed their ways or they have good cosmetic surgeons.

Not Just Your Looks:  You know too much sun (or tanning bed) exposure can greatly increase your chances of developing skin cancer.  I’m not going to quote doctors and research studies.  Instead, I’ll summarize:  Sunblock good.  Skin cancer bad.

Broaden Your Horizons:   Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen products.  These are the ones that protect against both UVA (long-wave) and UVB (short-wave) rays.  While 95% of UV radiation comes from UVA rays, it’s the UVB rays that can do primary damage to the outermost layers of skin, which can contribute significantly to skin cancer risk.

Seriously:  Don’t be an idiot.  Wear sunblock.  Find one you like and apply liberally.  Use a product specifically designed for your face if you have problem skin.  Wear waterproof sunblock if you’re going to get wet (or sweaty).  It’s not complicated.  You’ve probably wasted more time and money on Starbucks or fast food than you will on sunscreen.  And only one of those things can save your life.

Equal Opportunity:  Just because your skin has extra melanin, it doesn’t mean you won’t get skin cancer.  (If you don’t believe me, google “Bob Marley cause of death”) Yes, Caucasians are more likely to develop skin cancer.  However, having darker skin can lead to a later diagnosis – increasing the chances that the skin cancer will have progressed to a later (more potentially deadly) stage by the time it’s caught.

Things to Know:  Sunscreen expires.  If it doesn’t have an expiration date, three years is a good guideline for deciding when to throw it out.  Keep in mind: you reduce its life expectancy by storing it in hot and/or humid locations, and by not keeping the lid tightly closed.  If your sunscreen is lumpy, has changed color, or smells odd, throw it away.

To learn more about UVA & UVB rays, as well as skin cancer, go to http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb

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