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Sun Safety: Ten Tips for Protecting Your Skin This Summer

By Cassidy Flanigan, Board Certified Physician Assistant at Beebe Dermatology

It’s summertime in Sussex County! Whether you are putting plans in place to have your “fun in the sun,” or work outdoors from the beach to the farm, remember that keeping your skin protected and safe is so important.

As a Physician Assistant at Beebe Dermatology, I know firsthand how powerful the sun’s ultraviolet rays are and how they can harm you if you don’t take the necessary steps to protect yourself from them. The truth is that you can have a good time on our great local beaches and enjoying our local outdoor recreational areas, and also be smart at the same time.

Here are my Top 10 tips for ways to keep yourself safe when you are spending time outdoors.

  1. Use sunscreen daily. The sun is out and its rays are shining down, even on a cloudy day. Be sure to apply your sunscreen throughout the day, every day.
  2. Know your sunscreen options. There are mineral sunscreens, which produce a thin, white, film on your body that physically blocks ultraviolet rays from penetrating into your skin. Then there are also chemical sunscreens. These products react to heat, breaking down and dissipating the ultraviolet light that reaches your skin. Both types have pros and cons, and since every person’s skin is a bit different, I recommend trying both to determine which type is best for you.
  3. Understand SPF and why it is important. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It’s a gauge to measure how much solar energy, or UV radiation, is required to produce a sunburn, when sunscreen is applied. The higher the SPF, the higher your level of protection. I typically recommend that people choose sunscreen that is SPF of 30 or higher.
  4. Re-apply sunscreen frequently, regardless of SPF. Higher SPF does not mean you need to apply your sunscreen less frequently. You should re-apply every two hours, and even more often if you are spending time in the pool or ocean.
  5. Your outfit can provide protection. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs can help tremendously.
  6. Keep cool in the shade. Whenever possible, stay under cover. Find a bench under a tree, choose a deck or porch that has a roof overhead when you can, or when you are at the beach or pool try to sit under an umbrella or cabana.
  7. Keep an eye on the clock. The UV Index helps us understand times of the day when ultraviolet light from the sun is the least and most intense, using a grading scale of 1 to 11+. We know that the UV Index is highest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. That said, when possible, plan your outdoor activities earlier or later in the day.
  8. Check your skin. Be a good advocate for your own skin health by making it a point to check your skin regularly. If you notice any changes, or new or different moles, I recommend that you bring them to the attention of your primary care physician or dermatologist for an initial evaluation right away.
  9. Know your ABCDEs. Dermatologists assess moles with focus on five key indicators. Knowing the difference between a mark or mole that is concerning, versus nothing to worry about, is important as you conduct your regular skin checks at home. Pay attention to:
    -Asymmetry – is one half of the mole different from the other half?
    -Border – are the outside edges of the mole irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined?
    -Color – does the mole have more than one color? Is it tan, brown, black, blue, or red? Diameter – is it bigger than 6 millimeters (the size of an eraser)?
    -Evolving – does the mole look different from other moles or has it changed over time?
  10. Add “dermatology appointment” to your annual calendar. It is a good idea to see a dermatologist once a year for a solid “head to toe” check – even if you don’t have any areas of concern. Similar to how you see your primary care physician for an annual check-up, or schedule a mammogram once per year, a routine visit to a skin specialist makes sense and will help you keep your good health in check.

If you don’t have an established relationship with a dermatologist, or are on the search for a new one, I welcome you to contact our practice and schedule an initial appointment. Our team is knowledgeable, experienced, and committed to putting the needs of our patients first. You can reach us at 302-645-4801.

Cassidy Flanigan, PA-C, is a dermatology physician assistant who offers comprehensive dermatology care, including skin checks, biopsies, and excisions, in cases when skin cancer is detected. Additionally, she treats a wide range of dermatologic conditions including (but not limited to) acne, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, infections, and rashes. Cassidy sees patients of all ages, including adolescents and teens.