It's so beautiful to be out in the cheerful glow of summer, and for most of us the bright sun makes us happy and pumped to bask in every last ray with our friends or by ourselves. But before you leave the house, is your skin ready for the sun? Have you put on sunscreen? Sunscreen can sound like a nice to-have in the summer, but it really works best as a daily habit. Whether it be rain or shine outside, place your sunscreen on your bathroom sink and apply after washing your face and brushing your teeth. If you make sunscreen a habit for daytime wear, even if you won't be in the sun for a prolonged period of time, it will eventually stick. And what will make it easier to stick is if you wear a sunscreen that feels great for your skin type. Scream for sunscreen this time around, if you haven't already. We all know sunscreen is a an effective shield against skin cancer, but do you know the ingredients of sunscreen can determine your sunscreen purchase choice? And do you consistently reapply sunscreen throughout the day? Our FitPros speaker, Susana Ortiz-Urda, M.D., explores Healthy Skin Awareness with an exceptionally easy-to-follow guideline for skincare tips and reminders about the serious perils of sun damage.
To understand how sunscreens work, it is helpful to compare sunscreens as mineral or chemical. Mineral sunscreens are safer for those prone to allergies, or have sensitive skin. They work as a physical barrier by deflecting the rays of the sun. However, mineral sunscreens can leave a white film and take more effort to rub into the skin. Personally, I really like the DeVita and Cotz because they are mineral, yet non-greasy, and fast-absorbing. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, typically contain Avobenzone, which are endocrine disruptors and may affect your hormones. Chemical sunscreens are usually easier to absorb and non-comedogenic, so they won't clog the pores. If you are new to sunscreens, I strongly recommend getting a skin check consultation to assess if your skin would benefit more from a chemical or mineral sunscreen. Or you may naturally know if your skin is more on the sensitive side, or "normal," and choose from there.
Oritz-Urda expertly educates employees on the importance of skin checks and how the easiest cancer they can prevent is skin cancer. Your skin health lies in your hands. Employees are taught to take control of their health and to always self-examine first. You are your own best advocate and I found this particular Health fitTalk fundamentally crucial for employee health and wellness. I believe that skin health often takes the backseat in our overall wellness, and a speaker who can so wondrously advocate for employees' skin health is a speaker worth having. Oritz-Urda goes on to implore employees to monitor their own existing moles for possible melanomas while keeping a watchful eye on new developing moles. Using nevi as the technical name for moles, she recommends employees to follow the nevi scale, which determines those who are most susceptible to getting moles, i.e red-headed folks. Take note that moles can be found anywhere on your body, not just the face; if you notice anything on your skin that looks different to YOU, name it as an "ugly duckling," or a growth not normal to you. Naming it will help you remember to keep track of it. You don't have to obsessively monitor the growth or mole, but know that it's there and that you can schedule a skin consultation appointment if need be. Amazingly, Dr. Susanna Oritz-Urda offers 5-minute skin consultations to start employees on the right track!
Here are a few more skin protective strategies for the employees in your office:
1. Don’t smoke! Smoking induces oxidative stress on the skin which breaks down collagen and causes wrinkles. Smoking and direct sunlight is a recipe for disaster on the skin – upping the chance of developing melanomas and weathered, wrinkled skin.
2. Wear protective clothing such as a cap or a wide-brimmed sun hat, sunglasses, and sun-protection clothing by REI. This kind of clothing has UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) which protects you against UVA and UVB and if the UPF is 50 that means the clothing blocks out 98% of UV rays.
3. Use sunscreens with SPF 30 or above. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) determines how long you can protected before your skin starts to redden and burn. The key is to reapply whether you have an SPF of 15 or 50. Reapplying your sunscreen is what matters the most. Also, don't forget the lips need protection too! Elta MD is a recommended sunscreen. A helpful rule of thumb for skincare is to use creams, not pumps. Pumps contain alcohol which is very drying to the skin.
4. Self-examination includes using the ABCDES of melanomas: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, evolving. Employees can memorize this simple acronym and HR can even post it in the office to ensure healthy skin awareness.
All in all, educate yourself about your own body: learn what is normal to you and what isn't. Make sure that you protect the entire skin surface by applying sunscreen to all exposed areas–not just the T-zone of your face, or your shoulders.
Employees who attend this much-needed, overlooked, and underemphasized category of wellness, will walk away with a newfound appreciation for skin health, and hopefully be reminded that you can still have fun in the sun with a conscientious attitude toward protection.