The Pacific Northwest is known for its gorgeous greenery. But when the sun finally reappears after a long winter, don’t fall victim to the painful — and often long-term — aftereffects of a sunburn.
Dr. Barbara Fox of Pacific Medical Centers has been practicing dermatology for the past 35 years. When asked if Washingtonians should wait until sunny weather before applying sunscreen, she laughs, “Absolutely not! ‘No’ with an exclamation point!”
She explains that while ultraviolet (UV) intensity is higher in the summer, up to 80% of these harmful rays can penetrate clouds, rain, drizzle and even car windows. UV damage is responsible for most skin cancers and visible signs of premature aging like wrinkles, dark age spots and cataracts.
Year-round use of sunscreen products with a sun protection factor (SPF) over 30 can greatly reduce the risk of skin cancers. If you’ll be outdoors all day or exposed to reflective elements like sand, water or snow, consider increasing the SPF and frequency you reapply.
Another misconception arises when Washingtonians go on vacation. Many of us head to warm, sunny climates and either forget to up the SPF or believe tanning sessions beforehand will prevent sunburn. Skincancer.org reports that “people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.” It’s even illegal in Washington for children under the age of 18 to use tanning beds.
Dr. Fox’s sun tips are simple: wear sunscreen (and reapply every 2 hours), seek shade and cover up as much as possible. Going hiking, window-shopping or picnicking with family? Use the less sunny side of the street or an evergreen canopy, and don’t forget sunburn trouble spots like ears, the V of your chest, back of your neck and any sensitive bald spots.
Summer is just around the corner, but sun safety should be a year-round priority for everyone, no matter their location or age.
Want to know more? Schedule an appointment with Dr. Fox online or by calling 888-4PACMED (888-472-2633).