Since we love the great outdoors, and because many of our favorite fitness activities—golf, hiking, biking, running, walking, tennis, swimming, etc.—happen under the sun, we sat down with SkinHealth Inc. founder and CEO Cheryl L. Clarkson to share some guidance on protecting our skin from the rays this summer. A former director of sales for medical supply maker Baxter, as well as COO and interim CEO at Abiodent, the manufacturer of a dental device, Cheryl shifted her medical industry expertise to one priority: preventing skin cancer. Today her company includes two SkinHealth med spas and a line of skincare and sunscreen products.
First, Cheryl Says, Skin Protection is a Must Every Day.
UVA rays, which lead to a tan and sunburn, cannot penetrate glass. UVB rays, however, can—meaning that even in the dead of winter, while you’re sitting with a mug of tea and a book in front of a cold but sunny window, you’re absorbing those deep-penetrating and potentially dangerous rays.
So every day you have to apply sunscreen to every exposed area of skin: your face, your ears, your hands, your lips. And protect your vision with high-quality sunglasses—melanoma can begin in the eyes, Cheryl notes.
“Every minute we’re in the sun is recorded in our body, in the DNA…”
What about those areas covered by clothing? It needs to be tightly woven, Cheryl says. A T-shirt has an SPF of around 8. When it’s wet, the SPF falls to approximately 4. Apply sunscreen underneath or choose clothing specially made to protect skin from the sun.
Pay attention to what’s in that sunscreen. There are two kinds: sunscreen that physically blocks and reflects the sun’s rays, such as zinc oxide, and sunscreen that chemically absorbs the sun’s rays.
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Cheryl’s line of sunscreens are formulated with 6-17 percent zinc oxide, the highest concentration on the market. You might cringe if your only experience with zinc oxide includes a white, greasy film; but today’s formulations are micronized, meaning the smaller molecules will be less thick and thus less visible shortly after application. Even better, they’re often paired with vitamins and antioxidants to nourish skin at the same time.
You can think of all this as your sunscreen wardrobe. Just as you adjust your layers of clothing for the weather, you should adjust your sun protection for the weather, with more layers for more sun exposure.
The DNA damage caused by the sun’s rays is cumulative.
“Every minute we’re in the sun is recorded in our body, in the DNA,” Cheryl says. “It’s a lifetime of accumulation.” If you think of it like that, it quickly becomes apparent that even a short walk with the dog can contribute to aging and your cancer risk. In fact, women often discover skin cancer on the backs of their knees, she says—out of sight is out of mind.
So this Memorial Day, make a New Year’s Day-type resolution: Get sunscreen. Use it all the time, all over. Add a classy hat that covers your ears; a pair of super-cool shades; and active wear with built-in sunscreen. Then get outside and play!