May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month reminding you to get ready for the sun. Have you checked your sunscreen expiration dates, do you need to replace old sun protection clothing or a sun hat that is worn out? Have you looked over your skin? Have you had a full skin exam recently to screen for skin cancer?
It’s time to get your sun protection supplies and strategy set for the season. It’s also a smart time to make a fall skin exam appointment with your dermatologist – yes, schedule now for fall!
Sunny warm weather is ahead for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere and we will be outdoors a lot from now until chilly fall weather returns. May is the right time to get ready and is designated Skin Cancer Awareness Month as a reminder. The month is bookended by
- Melanoma Monday – the first Monday of the May
- Don’t Fry Day – the Friday before Memorial Day
Three important things to do for yourself during Skin Cancer Awareness Month
#1. Check your sunscreens
Are any of your sunscreens expired?
This matters because the protection breaks down in the tube or bottle. This is especially true if any of the active ingredients are chemical UV filters, meaning if they are NOT zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These chemical filters are really fragile and are known to break down quickly. Also, if your sunscreen was stored in abusive conditions (thick hot car or cold temperature) then you should replace it.
I only recommend zinc oxide sunscreens and I recommend you start fresh with new sunscreen each spring during Skin Cancer Awareness Month. - Dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey
Do you have products you love?
Or, do you resent your sunscreens? Products keep getting better – clear mineral sunscreens are available. Treat yourself to a sunscreen you actually like to wear such as a tinted product or a powder SPF for reapplication. I love wearing all of my Sheer Strength Sunscreens.
Be sure you have water resistant sunscreen.
You need this for swimming, gardening and hot sweaty days. Water resistance is rated 40-minutes or 80-minutes. You need an 80-minute sunscreen product for swimming and heavy sweating in the sun.
Sun protection does not stop with sunscreen! Do you have good non-sunscreen sun protection tools? - Dr. Bailey
You need sun protective clothing
Check your sun protection gear such as clothing, hat, sunglasses, sun gloves, swim shirt and more. We recommend covering skin as your first strategy and applying sunscreen on exposed skin that is NOT covered. This is smart sun protection and will save you money in the long run.
Sun protection clothing and hats protect your skin longer than sunscreen and don't need to be reapplied every 2 hours when outdoors. But they still wear out. I learned this when I put my Detecto Ring in the pocket of a sun protection shirt I had worn a lot for several years and UV rays penetrated the fabric and the beads colored up. Here is how I use the UV Detecto ring to personally examine fabric:
Detecto Ring in full sun on the equator at noon shaded by a normal tee shirt that is not UPF 50 rated. Beads have moderate color.
Detecto Ring in full sun on the equator at noon shaded by UPF 50 rated shirt. Beads have almost no color.
See how the beads color much less under the UPF 50 shirt. This was done in 2009 before I started wearing Coolibar. With Coolibar, the beads color even less.
Dermatologist recommended UPF 50 sun protective clothing
I recommend you have:
- a good UPF 50 long sleeve shirt,
- a UPF 50 vented shirt,
- a UPF 50 neck guard (like a gaiter or scarf),
- UPF 50 sun gloves.
Be sure you also have lightweight UV protective pants to keep UV rays off of your legs (trust me, skin cancer on your shins is no fun), and swim shirt. I even have UPF 50 swim tights for lap swim.
I order my sun protection clothing from Coolibar because their unique UV blocking technology is built into the fibers. I get no 'affiliate' benefit from sharing that! I've put their products to the test for years and trust their quality. Here I am hiking in the Sonoran Desert in full Coolibar, my own UPF 50 Bucket Hat and my Sheer Strength Pure Physical Spray SPF 50 Sunscreen. Glamorous?? No! But the sun was intense and my skin was fully safe.
In my experience, Coolibar UPF protection lasts the longest of all UPF clothing. The shirt gear I'm wearing in this pic is at least 2 years old and still providing good protection. Check online for Coolibar coupon codes or call your dermatologist’s office, they often have a Coolibar catalogue with a generous coupon code inside.
You need a UPF 50 sun hat
Is your sun hat easy and comfortable to wear? Is it weary, frumpy and needs replacement?
Remember, a dermatologist recommended sun hat must meet 3 criteria:
- A 3-5-inch brim to protect an adult face.
- A 360-degree full circumference brim to protect your neck and ears. Ball caps are dermatologist’s job security – don’t let that ball cap person be you.
- Full scalp coverage made of UPF 50 fiber.
I recommend getting a sun hat made of UPF 50 tested and rated material. I love my UPF 50 Bucket Hats and keep the price low so you can say 'yes' to yourself.
Have you used a UPF 50 sun parasol?
I love mine for the portable shade it creates. It’s really much cooler under the parasol, and trust me, you will make friends on a hot day as you share your shade. This is my Coolibar UPF50 parasol in Polynesia just before the start of the pandemic!
#2. Do a self-skin exam now during Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Check your skin in the mirror after your next shower and look for any spots that might be worrisome for melanoma.
Use the ABCDE trick and look for spots that have these characteristics:
Look at the melanoma image and compare the ABCDE criteria. The mole was growing and I found it on the thigh of a man while doing an exam for a different problem that he wanted addressed. He did not know this spot was a skin cancer! The melanoma was thin and he saved his life by letting me examine his skin.
A stands for ASSYMETRY: Non-cancerous moles are usually circles and ovals. Asymmetry of a mole is worrisome.
B stands for BOARDER: Non-cancerous moles usually have a crisp and well-defined even boarder. Irregular or fuzzy boarders to moles are worrisome.
C stands for COLOR: Non-cancerous moles usually have an even color. Multiple colors irregularly distributed in a mole are worrisome.
D stands for DIAMETER: Non-cancerous moles are usually smaller than 6mm in diameter. This is the diameter of a pencil eraser. Larger moles are worrisome.
E stands for EVOLUTION: Non-cancerous moles don’t usually change much. Changing and evolution in shape, size or color of a mole is worrisome. Becoming itchy, tender, painful or even going away are worrisome changes.
If you find a mole that meets the ABCDE criteria, get it checked by a dermatologist. I recommend that you also examine your kids and partner after their shower.
Share my free ABCDE Skin exam infographic above on social media to help others remember to check their skin during Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
#3. Make your fall full skin exam appointment now!
Yes, this is a brilliant idea. In my 35 years practicing dermatology, I consistently see more skin cancer in fall. I think summer UV accidents lead to malignant cell mutations that manifest as early cancers by fall. Catch cancer small and it is often easily cured. Call now to get that appointment. Have you noticed how long it takes to get in to see your dermatologist? Yep, call now for fall. Trust me on this.
Dermatologist Dr. Bailey's Sun Protection Products for Skin Cancer Awareness Month
I’ve got a California dermatologist’s tools for sun protection. These are what I personally use and recommend for my patients. I have a range of well-loved mineral zinc oxide sunscreens, hats, the UV Detecto Ring to monitor UV exposure. I’ve also got a free infographic to help you know you’re protected, including sunscreen application amounts! Share the infographic on social media to help others.
SunSavvy Around Town Sun Protection Kit for daily sun protection
Detecto Rings are fun for everyone - test your UV exposure knowledge. Keep it on your key ring.
Sheer Strength Pure Physical Zinc Oxide sunscreens made from the best technology for trusted protection.
Share my free sun protection infographic on social media so everyone knows how much sunscreen to apply for 'dermatologist approved sun protection'.