Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Tips from Dermatologists on Protecting Skin Without Totally Avoiding Sun

skin cancer awareness

It’s Skin Cancer Awareness Month Y’all!

Did you know that ONE blistering sunburn in childhood may double your risk of Melanoma later in life!? It is very important that we educate ourselves and our children at a young age on the importance of protecting our skin from harmful, excessive sun exposure. The best way to start learning may be by putting a few of these tips into practice for yourself! I am very often asked when seeing patients, “what kind of sunscreen do you recommend?” I would like to give you guys my dermatological perspective about what to look for in your daily sunscreens and some good tips on application to maximize their effectiveness and keep you and your kiddos having fun in the sun while remaining well protected from harmful sun rays.

Many products on the market advertise their products as “broad spectrum” sunscreens while others do not. Why is this? While the majority of store-bought products have good coverage for more intense UVB rays, which usually burn the superficial layer of skin, others often neglect to cover longer wavelengths such as UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the skin’s thickest layer. Thus, without knowing the intention behind the phrase “broad spectrum” it is hard to hold sunscreen companies accountable for exactly how ‘broad” their coverage is and whether or not it is enough to protect your skin.


UVB light is mainly responsible for tanning, burning, and skin aging. These wavelengths play a large role in the development of skin cancers so are an important component of sunscreens and sunblocks. In the United States, UVB intensity varies by season, location and time of day with the most significant amount between 10 am and 4 pm during the months of April through October. UVA rays, on the other hand, are present all year round and can reach deeper into your skin. They can penetrate glass and clouds and contribute to skin aging and wrinkling.  More recent studies suggest they may initiate and exacerbate the development of skin cancers. For this reason, it is very important to have protection against BOTH of these wavelengths. Only three known ingredients block UVA. These include Avobenzone, Ecamsule (only available in Loreal products) and Zinc oxide. Below are a few tips to ensure that you and your entire family are protected from the summer sun:

  • Purchase products with ONE of the following ingredients to protect against UVA: Avobenzone (clear/comes in a spray), Ecamsule (clear but only available in Loreal products), or Zinc oxide (white appearance when applied). Our personal favorite at Kentucky Dermatology and Cosmetic Specialists is the widely known Elta MD sunscreen, which is available in our Lexington, KY office.
  • An SPF of at least 30 should be purchased with re-application throughout the day.
  • It is a good idea to include sunscreen or sunblock in your morning routine by applying an SPF of 30 or higher before moisturizers or make-up. Don’t forget your neck and ears!
  • Maximum benefit from sunscreens is reached when applied 30 minutes PRIOR to sun exposure
  • Must re-apply every 1-2 hours or after swimming
  • Avoid peak sunlight hours between 10 am and 4 pm especially in moths April to October
  • Wear clothing! Hats with a 4-inch brim. Plain T-shirt’s have approximately 7 SPF while double shirt blocks nearly all UV light.


Fun Fact about sunless tanners: Most products contain DHA which stains the skin and is non-toxic so you can get that summer glow without fear of harming your skin! One of our personal favorites that gives you a nice brown (not Oompa Loompa) glow is St. Moriz foaming self-tanner, which you can purchase at Ulta! Plus, it’s under $20!!

St. Moriz