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Eligibility

That's Eligible?! How I got serious about spring skin protection

Did you know that Florida has the highest skin cancer rate in the country? That's why when my family moved to the Sunshine State, I knew it was time to start taking my skin health seriously -- especially this time of year.

You might already know that sunscreen is FSA-eligible. But did you know that trips to the dermatologist, protective lip balm, even some sunscreen/bug spray combos are also on the eligible list? Here's how to form healthy skin care and protection health habits – without skipping the sunshine altogether.

Use sunscreen everyday (no skipping)

I knew it was time to change my skin protection habits when I'd make it a habit to cover my son in sunscreen from head to toe before we went to the park, beach, or zoo – but I'd completely forget to cover myself.

Now, I keep a basket of sunscreen by my front door. Baby sunscreen for him, and sunscreen and protective lip balm for me. We also both usually wear hats when outdoors, which the CDC says can help reduce the risk of skin cancer.

Find the right sunscreen

Sunscreen is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Take advantage of the many FSA-eligible sunscreen options, from mineral sunscreens to quick-drying formulas, even extra-hydrating options.

While some busy parents buy a jumbo bottle of sunscreen and slather it on the whole family, most sunscreens are too strong or irritating for a young child's skin. Experts recommend that kids' sunscreen be SPF30+, have UVA and UVB ray protection, and is water-resistant.

Another reason it's important that you find a sunscreen just right for your little one? Just one blistering sunburn during childhood can nearly double skin cancer rates.

Invest in other types of sun protection

Your sunscreen options aren't just limited to sprays and lotions. Stock up on protective sun clothing for the whole family. Many retailers offer sun shirts, bathing suits and sun hats with SPF50 or higher, offering one more layer between your skin and the sun's damaging rays.

Also worth considering? High-quality sunglasses that offer UV protection for your eyes. Prescription sunglasses are eligible, as long as the lens also provide vision correction. And don't forget about your lips. Protective lip balm is another FSA-eligible way to keep your skin in top shape this summer.

If you want more bang for your buck, try investing in an SPF15+ sunscreen/bug repellent combo. Since bug spray alone isn't covered by your FSA, this is a great chance to kill two birds (er, bugs?) with one stone.

Always turn to the professionals

No, we're not talking about professional sunbathers. One of the most important steps you can take to take care of your skin is to visit your dermatologist at least once a year for a skin cancer screening. During the screening, your doctor will check for changes in size, shape, or color of moles or freckles, or look for other changes in your skin, which could be an early sign of skin cancer.

If the idea of stripping down to your skivvies and letting a stranger inspect your moles at close range doesn't top your to-do list, keep the facts in mind. It might just save your life.

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Living Well

Real Money: Why you might want to stop putting off medical specialist visits

A few weeks ago, I was running late for my dermatology appointment and for the third time that day, I questioned why I was at the doctor's office at all. It felt like a hassle — making the appointment, driving across town to the office and finding parking. But once I sat down with my doctor and the skin check began, I remembered why I prioritize these appointments.

Three years ago, my primary care physician suggested that I see a dermatologist because I'm prone to freckles. I made the first appointment with my dermatologist and had my first skin check.

Two years ago, I had two moles removed due to my doctor's concerns that they might be cancerous. It turned out that the moles were benign and my skin was healthy. Last year, I went for another annual check-up with my dermatologist and got a clean bill of health. This year wasn't quite as simple.

At my most recent appointment, my doctor told me that there was a small bump on my face that she needed to remove. She removed a tiny sliver from the bump that she could send to the lab for a biopsy.

I'm still waiting for the results, but I know that no matter what the doctors say, I did the right thing by acting early. Even if the skin is cancerous, it can easily be removed without scarring. But I might not have been so lucky if I had skipped my annual dermatologist appointment.

Here are some of the doctor's appointments I plan to make this year, along with some reasons why you might want to consider doing the same. Remember, you can use your FSA to pay for them!

1.Dermatologist

I might be biased, but if you have a history of skin cancer in your family, use (or used to use) tanning beds or have an unusual amount of moles or freckles, then it's probably a good idea to see a dermatologist for a check-up. Even if you don't have any concerns about sun damage, dermatologists can also help with acne, rashes, breakouts and any other skin concerns.

2. Dentist

Whether you have pain in your mouth or just need a six-month cleaning, it's important to visit your dentist at least every six months. Not only does your dentist take x-rays, clean your teeth and check for cavities, he or she will also check on your gum health. The longer you wait to visit, the more pronounced potential problems might become.

By staying on track and visiting every six months, you'll increase your chances of a clean bill of dental health and decrease your chances of receiving a big financial bill.

3. Optometrist

Whether you wear glasses or not, it's important to get an eye exam every 1-2 years. Regular eye exams will make sure that your eyesight doesn't get worse without treatment. Plus, it's always fun to see how well you can read the chart! Don't wait until you start getting headaches or can't see your notes in a meeting to make it happen. After all, the best defense is a good offense.

4. Therapist

Overall health includes both physical and mental well-being. In other words, it's important to prioritize your mental health too. Whether you've been feeling down lately or are experiencing some low-level anxiety, it might be a good idea to check in with a therapist.

There's a misconception that therapy is something that lasts for years on end, but the truth is that you might just need a quick check-in or tune-up. Either way, be sure to take care of your mental well-being.

5. Primary care physician

Yeah, I know - we're cheating. But, even though your primary care physician isn't necessarily a specialist, it's just as important to make (and keep) your appointments with your primary doctor. Annual wellness exams are an important part of preventative care because your doctor might be able to see things that you haven't noticed yet.

No one wants unnecessary doctors' visits. But medical specialists exist for a reason and it's important to prioritize every part of your health. Plus, doctors' appointments and any associated copays are FSA-eligible. In other words, making a specialized medical appointment should be an easy "no-brainer" -- don't potentially put your health at risk by putting them off.

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Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.