Summertime is the best time for many – sun, sand, and the water call their names, and off to the waterfront or beach they go. But there is some very real danger if we’re not careful — and some easy ways to prevent it.
UV radiation is one of the leading factors for developing skin cancer, such as basal cell, squamous cell and the more commonly recognized melanoma cancers. Additionally, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., with an estimated one in five Americans likely to develop it during their lifetime according to the American Academy of Dermatology. So how can local neighbors guard against the effects of UV rays?
Further complicating the matter for potential vacation-goers could be the recent act signed into law by the governor of Hawaii, which will be the first bill in the country that will ban sunscreens containing chemicals harmful to coral reefs when it goes into effect in 2021. However, Alpesh Desai of Heights Dermatology says there are still several ways to safely enjoy the summer months.
The best kind of sun protection, he said, is physical blocking, such as clothing with certain ratings that protects the body from UV radiation. For those just catch that itch to hang out at the beach in swim or beach-wear, however, there are also alternative sunblock options available, such as those with zinc and titanium oxide, which work by sitting on top of the skin to deflect and scatter damaging UV rays away from the skin.
“Those are the top two ways to protect your skin that has nothing to do with those two components [that might be banned],” Desai said.
More than meets the eye
However, it takes more than just slathering on any product that insinuates sun protection – and Desai noted a common misconception between two widely varying products can make all the difference.
While the terms are used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between sunscreen and sunblock. A sunscreen, though it filters or screens the sun’s UV rays and keeps most rays, it still lets some in. Contrastingly, a block can act as a physical shield. So, given the choice, Desai said sunblock can best protect your skin.
Fortunately, according to VeryWell Health, many products sold today contain a mixture of the two. But why are the distinctions – and other precautions – such a big deal?
An easy solution
Most who have visited one at least on occasion have likely had a dermatologist talk about wearing sunscreen no matter the occasion if you’re planning to spend time out and about in the sun. It seems like simply a suggestion; but Desai cautioned that any amount of time spent with that sun beating down the back of the neck presents a very real and prevalent danger for which any beachgoer must account — and can easily do so.
“We’re trying to prevent these cancers, and one of the few things [people] can control is whether we wear sunscreen and sunblock,” he said. “A lot of people now have sunscreen and sunblock as part of their daily routine.”