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The first Monday of May is Melanoma Monday, kicking off a month of raising awareness about skin cancer. With the weather heating up and the sun sticking around for much longer these days, what better time to start taking preventative measures.
Dermatologist Dr. Debra Wattenberg joined the show to share the best tips for protecting your skin. From understanding what to look for to the best sunscreens for every type of need, keep reading to learn more.
The ABCs of melanoma
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and malignant melanoma is the deadliest form. "It is that time of year where you need to strip down to your birthday suit and examine your body for skin cancer," Wattenberg says. "Getting a blistering sunburn and exposure to sun tanning beds increases your risk for developing malignant melanoma. The good news is, it can be detected if you know what to look for."
Here's an easy way to remember what to keep an eye on.
Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half.
Border: It has an irregular scalloped or poorly defined border.
Color: The color is varied from one area to another.
Diameter: While melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm, they can be smaller.
Evolving: The mole or skin lesion looks different from the rest.
What to keep in mind this summer
Before you step out into the sun, you might be planning to apply your favorite self-tanner. And while self-tanners are safe to use, it's best to not mistake their purpose. "Remember that they do give a false sense of security as they do not provide a 'base tan' and most do not have sunscreen in them," Wattenberg says. "Consider them a short term makeup that washes off over time."
And whether it's a cool day or warm day and the sun is still out, it's important to use lots of sunscreen with Wattenberg's recommended minimum of SPF 30. Protecting your skin is key to preventing sunburn. But if you do get a burn, you probably have what you need right in your home.
Wattenberg recommends mixing equal parts cold water and cold milk to create a cool compress, soaking in milk's anti-inflammatory properties. You can also apply a little over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream and a fragrant-free moisturizer. If you're a little swollen, Advil or Aleve will help. And don't forget to drink a ton of water, as sunburns cause dehydration.
There are a lot of sunscreens out there, but Wattenberg has outlined the best sunscreens for a variety of needs.
The best body sunscreen
While choosing a sunscreen type is a personal choice, the best sunscreen is one you'll actually use. According to Wattenberg, choose one that is broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water resistant. But that's just the first step. You should also cover up with clothing, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and stay in the shade or indoors when the sun's rays are strongest — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
This option from Supergoop! is designed to absorb into the skin quickly and be resistant to sweat and water for 80 minutes.
This dermatologist-tested sunscreen is formulated to not clog pores, and the brand's dry-touch technology helps assure fast absorption so your skin isn't left feeling greasy or shiny.
The best face sunscreen
Wattenberg recommends choosing a sunscreen for your face based on your skin type. "If you have acne prone skin choose an oil-free sunscreen," Wattenberg says. "If you are overly sensitive choose a mineral-based sunscreen ... Face sunscreen is your best anti-aging product. It prevents wrinkles and brown spots."
A Shop TODAY and beauty lover favorite, this award-winning sunscreen from EltaMD offers benefits for skin discoloration and acne. So while it's perfect for all skin types, it's designed especially for those with sensitive skin.
This popular drugstore brand offers a formula that's meant to be ultra light and doesn't leave a white cast, so you can apply makeup on top or run outside without the worry of noticeable streaks.
Wattenberg says that lips also require a balm with SPF. This super affordable drugstore option comes in a variety of flavors to suit your preferences and meets the suggested SPF minimum.
The best clean sunscreen
While terms like "clean," "natural," and "organic" are loosely defined and unregulated by the FDA, Wattenberg says your best bet is a chemical-free sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. "Both are physical blockers that don't get absorbed by the skin," she says.
This fragrance-free sunscreen from COOLA is said to be hydrating, lightweight and non-greasy without the annoyance of a white cast.
This sunscreen protects both the reef and your skin. Especially good for sensitive skin, the formula contains no oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are common sunscreen ingredients that can damage and kill coral reefs.
The best sunscreen for kids
Getting kids to wear sunscreen can be a challenge, so Wattenberg recommends applying lotion prior to leaving the house and before they get dressed. And because there are no waterproof products — only water resistant — sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours and after swimming.
This option from Badger contains organic sunflower, jojoba, beeswax and essential oils of tangerine and vanilla for a moisturizing base. It also rubs on clear and is resistant to water and sweat for 80 minutes, so you know exactly when to reapply.
This oil-free sunscreen comes in a spray bottle so that application is quick and easy, especially for kids who can't stay still for long. It's made to be lightweight and fast absorbing. Wattenberg says if you're using a spray, make sure to avoid the face and open a window to increase ventilation.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Is a mineral sunscreen right for you? We asked dermatologists what to look for
- My dermatologist swears by this sunscreen, so I had to give it a try
- 7 warm weather beauty essentials, according to Women's Health