Self Tanner and Other Healthy Skin Habits

Kevin Berman, MD, PhD Health Guide
  • Hi everyone. Now that we are well into 2007 and many of your New Year’s resolutions may have been broken, let's set some new resolutions for healthy skin care for this year! Several simple steps to break bad habits and start new healthy behaviors can prevent skin cancer during this year and in the future.

    For those that use tanning beds to stay tan all year, this behavior should be stopped or modified. Because the artificial sunlight from tanning beds causes skin cancer, you should attempt the "spray-on" tans or use sunless tanning creams. These artificial tans are achieved without harmful ultraviolet light and allow for an all-year tan. One complaint of these "spray-on" tans is that they do not appear natural due to uneven streaking but this usually resolves with more experience. Some tanning bed users claim to feel happier and more relaxed after tanning sessions. This may be due to endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that are associated with pleasant feelings. While it is possible that sunlight makes us feel good, the detrimental effects on the skin outweigh any good feelings you may temporarily feel.
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    A good habit to form is the appropriate use of sun protection. For the new year and beyond, try to plan outdoor activities for the early morning or early evening hours. Avoiding the sun between 10 AM and 3 PM is advisable as the sun is strongest during these hours. Daily use of sunscreen is an easy habit to incorporate into your daily morning routine. Sunscreen to the face, ears, and the backs of the hands will help protect these sun-exposed areas from sun damage. Of course, if other areas are exposed to the sun, they should be protected also.

    Sunscreens with at least a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater is appropriate for daily use. For those days when you will be out in the sun for an extended period of time, SPF 30 or 45 is recommended and reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours. Sunscreen ingredients to look for include zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, and avobenzone (also called parsol 1789).

    A hat with a wide brim is a good way to protect your face and ears from the sun. Those who wear baseball caps should make a resolution to substitute a wide brimmed hat for that baseball cap!

    The last, but perhaps most important, resolution is to monitor for new or changing skin growths. The includes self skin exams done on a monthly basis and at least yearly skin exams by your dermatologist (or more often as your dermatologist recommends). Remember that skin cancers can arise in sun-exposed as well as sun-protected areas so prepare to have all areas of your body inspected!

    New or changing moles are most concerning (change in color, size, shape) as well any lesion that bleeds or does not heal properly. Skin cancer and changing moles can appear during any age so be sure that everyone in your family takes these same precautions. These resolutions should fit easily into a healthy lifestyle that will keep your skin healthy and younger looking for many years to come.
Published On: February 05, 2007