As summer rolls around, many people start planning cottage weekends, patio evenings and backyard barbeques. But while we’re enjoying being outdoors, it’s important to make sure we’re protecting our skin – sun exposure can cause long-term damage that will affect us down the road. We caught up with Dr. Erin Dahlke, a dermatologist at St. Joe’s, to learn how we can make sure we’re keeping our skin safe and healthy this summer.
1. Pay attention: You have to know your skin and what’s on it before you will be able to notice any changes to it. Dr. Dahlke recommends doing monthly skin self-exams with mirrors to check your skin both on the front and back of your body – with a partner if you can.
2. Know the ABCDEs of moles: When checking your skin, pay close attention to any spots or moles, which can be a sign of melanoma. Look for:
- Asymmetry – anything not symmetrical
- Border – is it jagged?
- Colour – most moles are light or dark brown — watch for multiple colours, for example red, blue or black inside a brown mole
- Diameter – anything bigger than 6mm
- Evolution – any significant changes
While most moles aren’t cause for concern, paying attention to the ABCDEs is important so you can flag anything with your family doctor who will be able to assess if you need to see a dermatologist.
3. Be aware of the sun: The sun is hottest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you can’t avoid being outside during this time, make sure you’re prepared; wearing a wide-brimmed hat will cover your ears and the back of your neck, and UV protective clothing will help block the sun’s rays.
4. Wear sunscreen: Use a minimum SPF 30 sunscreen to cover your skin. A lotion is better than a spray — a spray can be blown away or cover your skin unevenly. Remember to reapply when you’re outside for long periods of time — every few hours is good, but if you’re in the water, make sure you put more on as soon as you get out.
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