Living Well

Is it bad to wear sunscreen everyday?

Wearing sunscreen every day, especially if you're outside a lot, can help prevent certain conditions such as premature skin aging, sunburns, and even skin cancer. The risks are serious — skin cancer affects over 3.3 million people each year, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. (JAMA) So it's pretty obvious that we'd naturally turn to lotions and sprays to lower our risk. That is, aside from staying out of the sun.

The question is, is it okay to wear sunscreen everyday? Sure, it's a good idea to protect your exposed skin from harmful UV rays, but could daily use be detrimental? All it takes is a quick Google search to find articles that state that sunscreen is ineffective, all the way to claiming that the ingredients can cause you harm.

But it is even true? Does slathering on something that is supposed to help you have the opposite effect?

Let's take a look.

A Peek into the FDA

Believe it or not, sunscreens originally went on the market as cosmetics. However, when these products started making health-related claims like preventing skin cancer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) started regulating them as drugs in 1978.

The thing is, sunscreens that were already in existence before 1978 weren't subjected to the same types of testing until the FDA started to regulate their ingredients and usage. In other words, these products weren't subject to the same type of testing as modern drugs. The ingredients in these sunscreens fell into a category referred to as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). (JAMA)

However, with new options like mineral sunscreen and reef-safe varieties, ingredients such as BPA in plastic, avobenzone, retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone in chemical sunscreens have been put under the microscope as to whether the toxicity levels are any cause for concern.

So Are Chemicals in Sunscreens Effective?

The good news is the FDA has wondered the same thing and has questioned whether the chemicals from sunscreens are indeed absorbed into the body and what the possible effects are.

Back in May 2019, a study was published in JAMA where it aimed to answer these questions. The study randomly selected 24 healthy people to use one of four sunscreens. One was a cream, two were sprays and the fourth was a lotion. The participants were told to apply the sunscreens on 75% of their bodies four times a day for the next four days. Then, they had 30 blood samples drawn over the course of seven days.

The study looked at avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule, four common sunscreen ingredients. For all four sunscreens tested, all of them were above the nanogram threshold after the first day, in which the FDA states that the product will then need to undergo a toxicology assessment.

Except for the cream, the nanogram levels were higher than the limit allowed by the FDA. Plus, the levels increased with each passing day, which suggests with continued use, there'll be chemical accumulation in the body.

Is It Bad to Wear Sunscreen Everyday?

To be clear, the study mentioned above is no indication that sunscreen is bad for you, even sunscreen designed for children. It's possible that even with the amount absorbed, it's still perfectly safe to wear it to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. If you think about it, tons of people use sunscreen and there is hardly any data so far that has shown any issues with them. Given that, it's safe to say that the question "is it safe to wear sunscreen every day?" is probably, yes.

That being said, the FDA is still preparing their final recommendation on chemicals found in sunscreens. For now, the FDA's proposed rule is that any sunscreen with trolamine salicylate and para-aminobenzoic acid should not be given the GRAS designation. Plus, since zinc oxide and titanium dioxide aren't absorbed into the skin (rather it sits on it), these inorganic compounds can be classified as GRAS.

What's the Best Way to Protect Myself From The Sun?

You might not be convinced that wearing sunscreen is still harmful and you should forego it altogether. Or you're going to use alternatives like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. However, with lots of new entrants to the market, these types of sunscreens may be less effective than conventional ones — they may be less likely to meet the sun protection rating you see on the packaging. So it's smart to shop around and go with brands that have a long track record of success in protecting from sun exposure using alternative ingredients. (Consumer Reports)

Remember, there is no clear evidence that proves chemicals in conventional sunscreens are bad for you. But if you're still uneasy about wearing sunscreen every day, you can still protect yourself from sun exposure by wearing protective clothing that blocks out the sun, like hats and UV protective clothing or even staying in the shade as much as possible.

Otherwise, think of sunscreen as a supplement to other sun protection methods. If you're inside and thinking "should I wear sunscreen indoors," the answer is it's better to be safe if you're near a window.

When you do wear sunscreen, there are some basic guidelines or best practices to follow to prevent sun damage. As for answering, what SPF I should use, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that everyone wears an SPF sunscreen daily, even children. As long as you make sure that the sunscreen you choose is properly vetted to protect from UV radiation, you should be ready to go.

When applying sunscreen, make sure to cover all of your exposed skin that clothing won't cover — the AAD says most adults need at least one ounce to cover the entire body (don't forget your lips!). Don't forget to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. If you're outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, after sweating or after swimming — and be sure to read the directions on your bottle! Following these guidelines will provide the best defense against harmful rays and overall UV exposure.

No matter what, it's imperative that you take care of your health and protect yourself from skin damage. It's great you want to spend time outdoors, but you also need to ensure you take the right precautions in place to protect your health for years to come.

Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Sarah Li-Cain

Sarah Li-Cain is a finance writer and a AFC (Accredited Financial Counselor) candidate whose work has appeared in places like Bankrate, Business Insider, Redbook, Financial Planning Association, Investopedia and International Business Times. She's also the host of Beyond The Dollar, a show where her and her guests have deep and honest conversations about how money affects their well-being. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, she can be found spending time at the beach with her family when she's not working.

Living Well

What’s SPF in Sunscreen? SPF Level Breakdown

Sunscreen comes in all shapes, sizes, and most importantly, SPF values. When you go shopping for sun protection, you'll likely face a wall of countless SPF numbers emblazoned across colorful bottles, ranging in SPF value from as low as 2 (those with fair skin, beware) to as high as 110. But before you side with a specific brand or a type of sunscreen, you should know what is SPF?

We're going to give you an SPF level breakdown on what SPF in sunscreen is and how it works to help take the guesswork out of your UV protection. (Bonus: knowing what SPF is can make for some impressive poolside conversation.)

What's with all the acronyms?

Science usually has ways of consolidating really long words into things like SPF, UVA, UVB - but don't let these words intimidate you. Let's start here: What does SPF stand for? SPF stands for sun protection factor, and is a relative measurement of how long you are protected from UVB rays. You're probably thinking, "OK, so how about those UVB rays?" We'll get into that next, but let's go in alphabetical order. It's important to remember that the sun is a powerful thing, and its light is made up of different types of rays: UVA and UVB. According to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, these rays are both forms of ultraviolet light that play a role in the damaging of skin, from sunburn to skin cancer formation.

UVA rays affect your skin differently than UVB rays and attribute to things like premature skin aging, also known as wrinkles. UVB rays, on the other hand, cause sunburn and play a crucial role in the cause of skin cancer according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

How does SPF work?

Now that we've gotten the acronyms out of the way, let's hone in on how SPF works. First, you should know that SPF is measured by its effectiveness in blocking the sun's UVB rays, not UVA rays. Remember, UVB rays are responsible for sunburn, which is exactly how SPF gets its number. Let's break it down.

The SPF value represents the factor in which you are likely to burn. In an example used by Skin Cancer Foundation, the SPF number is a multiplier of how long it takes your skin to burn without the use of sunblock. So that means if it takes your skin 10 minutes to burn without the use of sunscreen, then wearing a sunscreen with SPF 30 will take you 30 times as long to burn, assuming you applied it properly (always follow the directions provided by the sunscreen company).

More detail on broad spectrum protection

Getting back to those UVA rays. You may be wondering how the SPF number plays into the protection from UVA rays. That's where broad-spectrum sunscreen comes in. Ensuring you have broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15 will mean you're protected from the sun's harmful UVA and UVB rays. Although, that wasn't always the case. According to Skin Cancer Foundation, the FDA "issued new rules for sunscreen labeling," which meant companies had a standard to meet when labeling their products "broad spectrum."

Luckily for tax-free users, eligible sunscreen must carry a minimum of SPF 15 with broad spectrum protection, so the convenience of finding the most-protective UV protection is built directly into tax-free spending.

How does SPF block the rays?

That's the thing, it doesn't. SPF is just the indication of how much protection you will get from that sunblock. (We just went over this.) What does block the rays are the actual active ingredients used in the sunscreen. This is commonly divided into two categories: chemical or mineral. The common active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens (avobenzone or oxybenzone) actually absorb the Uv radiation, break it down, and release it as heat, as described by Live Science.

In comparison, mineral sunscreens which commonly use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, are (as their name implies) physical minerals that sit atop your skin and physically reflect the UV rays. Sure, it doesn't sound nearly as scientific, but it is effective and a great alternative for those who have sensitive skin and are interested in more environmentally conscious options. Find which sunscreen is right for you and stick with which protects you best.

Does a higher SPF block more rays?

Technically, yes. Sunscreens do their best to block as many UVB rays as possible, but no sunscreen blocks 100 percent of all UVB rays. As determined by ConsumerReports.org, sunscreens with high SPF values of 100 and more, may not be more protective than an SPF 30 or SPF 50, which already blocks 97-98 percent. There's also the risk of entrusting higher SPF values to protect you for longer than lower SPF numbers, which can put you and your loved ones at risk of UV damage.

The sun doesn't deserve all this bad rap though. While its UV rays can be harmful, moderate amounts of exposure to sunlight is beneficial to your health. You may have heard that sun exposure is important for the production of vitamin D, which is true! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it only takes about 10-15 minutes of exposure to the sun on the arms, legs, abdomen, and back, two to three times a week to benefit from the sun's rays. The Foundation also explains that UVB rays are responsible for "triggering vitamin D production in the skin." While SPF indicates the protection from UVB rays, there's no proof that shows higher SPFs can diminish your body's ability to maintain vitamin D sufficiency.

ABCs of SPF

From SPF to UVA and UVB, the most important takeaways you should have on your next sunscreen purchase should include: broad spectrum, a minimum SPF 15 value, and most importantly, follow the directions! Don't be fooled by high SPF numbers and always remember to reapply your sunscreen throughout the day! Now take what you've learned about SPF and impress a friend or two next time you're poolside.


Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Living Well

What SPF Should I Use?

The sun plays a very important role in our everyday lives. It helps keep our sleep pattern on track and helps our bodies produce Vitamin D, which is important for bone function and healthy skin. But like most things, it's only good in moderation. And for those who love the sun, you probably have a hard time accepting that.

The truth is, too much sun exposure is harmful to your skin, which is why we require protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Deciding how much and what kind of protection you need depends on many factors. That's why we've put together an easy guide to help you choose the right protection.

All about UV

When considering sun protection, it's probably best to understand what exactly you're protecting yourself from. The sun's rays are made up of UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause skin damage, but in different ways. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVB rays cause sunburn and play a crucial role in the cause of skin cancer. While UVA rays are responsible for that glowy tan you're after, they're also wreaking havoc on your skin causing damage via aging and wrinkles.

A sunscreen's SPF protection refers to the protection it provides from the sun's UVB rays. So you're probably wondering, "What about UVA radiation?" That's where broad-spectrum protection comes in. Sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection do their best to block the entire spectrum of UV rays emitted by the sun, which is especially important when considering the harm UVB rays and UVA rays each cause.

Now that you understand what you're protecting yourself from, let's take a deeper dive into the pool of SPF so you can better understand which SPF number is right for you.

Shining a light on SPF

Not all SPFs are treated equally. So, before you ask yourself which SPF you should use, let's talk about what SPF is. The first question to consider is: what does SPF stand for? SPF is short for "sun protection factor," which indicates the effectiveness of a sunscreen vs. not wearing sunscreen. Sunscreens have many different SPF values from as low as 4 to as high as 110.

Understanding this value and what these numbers mean is essential to choosing the right SPF. According to MadeSafe.org, SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays, and SPF 100 blocks 99% of UVB rays, but no one sunscreen blocks 100%. This also does not mean a higher SPF number provides longer UV protection. I know, we promised this was going to be an easy guide, but bear with us, this part is important: SPF 30 and SPF 80 both last the same amount of time, they just offer different degrees of protection within that time frame. That's why questions like when, how much, and how often you apply sunscreen are key.

So how much is enough sunscreen?

Great question. The answer is: it depends. To practice safe sun exposure, we recommend following the instructions provided by your sunscreen product; however, there are some hard and fast rules that apply to good skincare practice.

According to QSun.co, a good rule of thumb when you apply sunscreen is "one teaspoon per body part" of exposed skin. No one expects you to bring your baking set to the beach to ensure you're accounting for the proper amount, but it wouldn't hurt to measure out a teaspoon of sunscreen in your hand so you can get used to what that measurement looks like.

While this is a helpful tip, it doesn't take into account how body surface area differs from one individual to another. In that case, it's best to make sure no piece of skin goes untouched. Applying sunscreen to dry skin, 30 minutes prior to sun exposure is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. This will ensure that the sunscreen has been completely absorbed by the skin to offer maximum protection against sun damage.

Another tip is to reapply, reapply, reapply. We can't stress this enough. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, one should reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or sweating. We know, it's never convenient to break up a game of Marco Polo to reapply sunscreen, but you'll thank us later when you're not feeling the stinging effect of sunburn while trying to enjoy your s'mores.

Check your sundial

Luckily for planet earth, the sun never takes a day off, but for us, that means the sun is constantly emitting harmful UV rays. Having said that, it is recommended that you wear sunscreen everyday. But when you are spending time outdoors, the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so your best bet is to make sure you're especially covered during these hours.

Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, it's especially important to look out for things like snow, sand and water as their reflective properties can enhance your skin's exposure to ultraviolet rays.

SPF by skin type

This leads us to the second-most-important consideration when choosing SPF and that is your skin type. Whether your skin is oily, dark, or fair, you will need to consider which SPF provides your skin with the maximum protection against sun damage.

For those with normal skin (neither dry nor oily) you're in luck. Any sunscreen is fair game for your skin type. You can pretty much pick your preference whether it may be reef safe, mineral, or chemical (we'll get to these in a bit).

For oily skin, you'll want to make sure you get a sunscreen that doesn't pack on the grease. The Healthy suggests finding a sunscreen with "ensulizole as the UVB blocker, since it's the least greasy." You can also consider a powder mineral sunscreen to avoid the greasiness.

For dry skin, try a sunscreen and moisturizer combo. Another option is finding sunscreens with soothing emollients, which according to Healthline, "coat your skin with a thin oily film that seals the water in your skin," thus keeping your skin hydrated.

And then there's acne-prone skin. Have no fear, there's SPF protection just for you. Search for a lightweight moisturizing sunscreen that is "non-comedogenic," which is a fancy word for, "will not clog your pores and cause acne."

If you have particularly sensitive skin, you may even want to seek shade during the sun's high point of the day. Choosing protective clothing to minimize the amount of skin you have exposed to the sun altogether is also a good idea. Plenty of outdoor apparel retailers offer built-in UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.

And if you have a history of skin cancer, or may be at high-risk for skin cancer, avoiding excess sun exposure may be best. But in the event you find yourself in the sunlight, the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that SPF 50 may not be enough protection. Consult your doctor about which protection may be right for you.

Chemical or Mineral

There are essentially two different types of active sunscreen ingredients that help prevent UVA and UVB rays, and they are chemical ingredients or mineral (physical) ingredients. Here's how they work:

Chemical sunscreen products use active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate which according to Piedmont Healthcare, absorbs the sun's rays, converts the rays to heat, and releases them from the body.

Mineral sunscreens "work like a shield, sitting on the surface of your skin and deflecting the sun's rays," according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. These use active ingredients like zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide and are typically a good alternative for sensitive skin types or even babies and toddlers.

No matter your desired protection, make sure not to miss the top of your head, ears, and even your lips! The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends a broad-spectrum lip balm with a minimum SPF value of 30 for healthy, sun-kissed lips.

So which SPF is right for me?

You've probably learned by now that there is no one magic number that covers every circumstance, but what you now know are the steps it takes to find out which SPF works best for you when you need it. So the next time you go shopping for sunscreen, find the right SPF by asking yourself the following:

  • Who the sunscreen is for (children or adults)
  • Skin type
  • Sensitivity to sun exposure
  • Amount of time you will be spending outdoors
  • Your preference for the type of SPF protection (chemical or mineral)
  • Lastly, always make sure your sunscreen has not expired

Remember, you can always start with a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF value of 30, which is recommended by dermatologists and research done by credible organizations. (We suggest listening to the pros on this one.) Now put up your broad-spectrum covered feet up and enjoy the great outdoors with peace of mind.


Thanks for visiting the FSA Learning Center! To stay on top of all FSA news that can affect your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Living Well

Start your year-round sun care regimen this deadline season

"Do I really need to wear sunscreen all year long?"

We hear that a lot around here. Which is why we're even more motivated to remind readers of just how important year-round sun care really is. Because even though most of the country spends the winter months covered in layers of warm clothing, any exposed skin is still at risk of damage if it's not protected.

Whether it's sun glare from snowy hills, or just raw, irritated skin from bitter air and wind, cold weather months can take their toll. So, we recommend finding a proven line of year-round sun care products to keep your skin safe, even when you think you're completely covered.

MDSolarSciences, founded by noted dermatologist Dr. Robert J. Friedman, is responsible for a growing line of highly effective skin care solutions that can be used year-round to prevent sunburns, skin aging and skin cancers. With the 12/31 flexible spending account (FSA) deadline just around the corner, the company wants to remind account holders about the importance of year-round sun care and to take this opportunity to spend your remaining funds on qualifying sun care products.

What makes sunscreen FSA-eligible? It all comes down to prevention of sunburn and other medical conditions. If a sunscreen is SPF 15+ and offers broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays, it's eligible! Let's dive and learn more about how these products protect your and your family from the sun's rays year-round.

Understanding "broad spectrum"

Ultraviolet light rays that travel from the sun can be classified by their length; the long-wave rays are UVA and the short rays are UVB. Together they make up the spectrum, but individually each damage our skin in different ways.

UVB: Causes burning

These short, intense rays cause painful sunburns on the top layer of skin. In the summer these rays are stronger—and they're also stronger at higher altitudes -- which is why you can get a sunburn while skiing!

UVA: Causes aging

These rays feel less intense than UVB rays that cause sunburns, but they make up 95% of the radiation that reaches the earth. Since UVA rays are longer, they penetrate the skin more deeply, which leads to cumulative damage and noticeable signs of aging like brown spots and wrinkles. While you might not feel these rays burning your skin, UVA rays are consistent throughout the year and can pass through clouds and even glass.

Since we need protection from both types of rays, it's important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. (It's also a key part in determining which sunscreens are FSA-eligible. Only a broad-spectrum product keeps you safe from both types of rays.)

The mineral sunscreen difference

In recent years, mineral sunscreen has emerged as one of the top eco-friendly sun care products on the market. But how does it differ from traditional sunscreen and is it just as effective?

In addition to having different active ingredients to combat UV rays, mineral sunscreen has a unique texture that is different from chemical sunscreens that feel more like a moisturizing lotion. Mineral sunscreens utilize active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and as such have a different texture than chemical variants. Dr. Friedman knew the best sunscreen is "the one you actually want to wear," so MDSolarSciences products are formulated to feel truly amazing when on, fitting seamlessly into your everyday skin care routine.

However, the key difference with mineral sunscreen is that while chemical versions are absorbed into the skin, mineral sunscreen sits on top of the skin layers and forms a physical barrier reflecting or scattering the UV rays.

So, they may be safer choices for those with sensitive skin, as well as small children. Lastly, because mineral sunscreen uses active ingredients that are derived from natural materials, it is eco-friendly and safe to wear everywhere.

MDSolarSciences products never use oxybenzone or octinoxate, two chemicals commonly found in sunscreens that can irritate skin and have been proven harmful to coral reefs. Also, MDSolarSciences' proprietary formulations are oil- and fragrance-free, water-resistant and lightweight, and won't leave a white, chalky film like many mineral-based sunscreens.

MDSolarSciences mineral-based sunscreens

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50, 1.7 oz

Lightweight "barely-there" formula goes on silky smooth and blends quickly, leaving a matte finish.

$30.00

MDSolarSciences Travel Bundle (a $101 value!)

MDSolarSciences' trio of bestselling tinted and non-tinted mineral sunscreens effectively protects all skin types from harsh UV rays and premature aging.

$75.00


Yes, you need sunscreen in the winter

Even when it's cold outside, the sun doesn't care that it's not beach season. Snow and ski-related sunburns can be a real problem if you're not careful. But you can keep these problems away if you use a few precautions.

Winter sunburns often happen from the snow itself, because snow is an excellent reflector of sunlight. This means not only are you getting rays directly from the sun, you're also getting UV hitting you from all directions.

Of course, many people think they're safe because they're covered in layers. But don't forget about your eyes and face. Not only should you keep using FSA-eligible sunscreen all year-round, but also protective eyewear. A good pair of snow goggles doesn't just protect your eyes from tree limbs and flying ice. They provide major protection from the intense rays bouncing all around you. And if you're not on the slopes, sunglasses with UV protection are just as important.

Don't forget the UV Index!

According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA), the UV Index is a calculation conducted by the National Weather Service for most ZIP codes across the U.S. to forecast the expected risk of excessive UV radiation.

No sunscreen will be able to block 100% of UV rays, but broad spectrum sunscreens are the most effective in reducing the chance of sunburn and skin damage from prolonged sun exposure. Always use sunscreen when heading outdoors, but another tip to reduce your UV exposure year-round is to check on the UV Index in your area.

Sun Care Center

What is broad spectrum protection?

Sunscreen is one of the most vital FSA-eligible products available to American families for its role in preventing skin cancer, which 1 in 5 Americans will experience some time in their lifetime (AAD).

But what many people aren't aware of is what makes a sun care product eligible for flexible spending account dollars. Luckily, the main requirement is that it keeps the key feature that makes all sunscreens effective: broad spectrum protection.

We've all seen broad spectrum on sunscreen bottles, but what does it really mean? According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, ultraviolet rays are the key causes of sunburn and skin damage, which take the form of UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVC rays are absorbed in the atmosphere, but the rest of this infrared light trickles down to us. But UVA/UVB rays damage skin in differing ways (University of Iowa):

UVA rays

These rays are the primary contributors to photoaging, or wrinkling of the skin that are most often associated with aging. They do this because they penetrate to deeper skin layers than UVB rays. UVA rays are the toughest to block, and traditional sunscreens are typically more effective in blocking UVB rays.

UVB rays

These are the sun's rays that affect your uppermost skin layers, and are the primary contributors to sunburn. These rays play the most active role in contributing to the formation of skin cancers, which can sometimes arise in dark-colored spots on the skin that can be the early signs of melanoma.

UV forecasts and sunscreen use

No sunscreen will be able to block 100% of UV rays, but broad spectrum sunscreens are the most effective in reducing the chance of sunburn and skin damage from prolonged sun exposure. Always use sunscreen when heading outdoors, but another tip to reduce your UV exposure year-round is to check on the UV Index in your area.

According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA), the UV Index is a calculation conducted by the National Weather Service for most ZIP codes across the U.S. to forecast the expected risk of excessive UV radiation.

Typically these are only reported on TV weather forecasts in events of extreme UV sun exposure, but if you want to be proactive about your sun care regimen, the EPA offers a free, downloadable UV Index app so you can be mindful of your risk wherever you're heading.

Sun Care Center

How to perform regular skin checks

With spring here in full swing and summer just around the corner, you and your loved ones' time in the sun will increase significantly and it's time to take the proper precautions. It's a good time to remind individuals and families to be mindful of the risk of the most common form of cancer in the United States - and the most preventable cancer type!

As important as utilizing broad spectrum sunscreens when spending time in the direct sunlight is for preventing skin cancer, regular skin checks are pivotal for early detection. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer growths that are found and removed early are almost always curable, so as the weather gets warm, skin checks are a necessity. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology that can help you get started!

What to look for

There are 5 key characteristics to look for that could be trouble signs of skin cancer growth. Skin cancer growths showcase asymmetry - or one half is unlike the other half - have an irregular, poorly defined border and varying color shades. Melanomas are typically larger than 6 millimeters, but another warning sign to look out for is a continual evolution in its shape and color that show that the growth is progressing.

Use a full-length mirror

Every skin cancer check should start with a full body exam in a full-length mirror. This will allow you to examine your body from front to back to check for any questionable dark spots or moles that could be the early signs of cancer. Additionally, be sure to lift your arms when checking your sides to ensure an unobstructed view.

Check hard-to-reach spots

One of the risks of melanoma is that it can form on unexpected places on the body, so make sure your skin check is as thorough as possible! Some spots to keep in mind are forearms, palms, the backs of legs/feet, spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

Utilize a hand mirror

Last but not least, there are a few spots on your body that you should closely inspect with a hand mirror. Examine the back of your neck and scalp with the mirror, and part your hair to check the underlying scalp for any marks or imperfections that may be present. This is also a good opportunity to check your lower back and buttocks as well.

What should I do if I spot a growth?

If you spot a growth that showcases the characteristics of melanoma, don't wait! Make an appointment with your dermatologist immediately to have it checked and removed if necessary!


Neutrogena Beach Defense Sunscreen

Work and play the day away without worrying about sunburn.

Sun Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Continuous Spray

Protect your skin from harmful UVA/UVB rays while enriching your skin with Vitamin E.