Daily protection from the sun is the best gift you can give your future self.
Aside from the fact that the deeply tanned look is becoming less fashionable, there are two big reasons to apply sunscreen every day:
1. It prevents premature aging, and
2. It prevents skin cancer!
How Important is Wearing Sunscreen Every Day?
Whenever I see patients, whether in person or online through PocketDerm, I recommend that they apply SPF 30 every morning. I advise that they cover the areas most likely to receive sun exposure - the face, the neck, and the back of the hands. Most of my patients prefer to use a moisturizer with SPF (such as CeraVe AM Moisturizing Lotion or Cetaphil Dermacontrol Moisturizer), and some also use a foundation makeup with SPF.
Reapply When Spending More Time Outdoors
When planning to spend a significant amount of time outdoors (e.g. visiting the beach, skiing, etc.), I recommend a three step plan:
1. Apply SPF 50 to all areas which will be exposed to the sun;
2. Reapply the sunscreen every two hours; and
3. Wear a hat whenever possible.
The Hard Part: Remembering
To reap the benefits, it’s important that you turn sunscreen into a part of your daily regimen. But the question is, how do you remember to apply every day? I like to place my bottle of sunscreen next to my toothpaste to make sure I remember it every morning.
Is Applying Daily Worth the Effort? The Proof
While I’ve professed the benefits of sunscreen to thousands of patients, convincing somebody to change a daily habit is not easy. I’ve found that the most effective way to persuade my patients is to show them three pictures. So without further ado...
Photo #1: The Truck Driver
This photo is my personal favorite. It is from a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, and it shows a truck driver who has severely sun-damaged skin - but only on the left side of his face, which is the side that faced the driver's side window of the truck. Because only half of his face received heavy sun exposure, this photo shows how the sun accelerates aging.
Photo #2: What You Can't See Can Hurt You
This photo below, courtesy of the American Academy of Dermatology, uses a special ultraviolet camera to reveal the sun-induced aging that has accumulated on the face of a 19-year-old woman. Also, check out this impactful video of people being shown the extent of their own hidden sun damage.
This picture demonstrates that, even if you can't see the sun damage on your face today, it's there.
Photo #3: A Lifetime of Damage
This photo, from an unknown original source, is less scientific, but shows a heavily tanned woman getting a little extra sun at the beach. The smooth face of the young boy in the background shows a profound contrast. This photo should encourage you to apply sunscreen anywhere that will receive sun exposure.
If you’re anything like most of my patients, these photos will help motivate you to protect yourself from the sun. Know any other tricks? Let us know in the comments.
David Lortscher, MD, FAAD
Dr. David Lortscher is a board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of PocketDerm, which enables patients to see a dermatologist online for comprehensive acne treatment. Dr. Lortscher received his medical degree from Washington University in St. Louis, completed his residency at UCSD, and is currently based in San Diego, CA. LinkedIn.
(Sun photo credit: gr33n3gg)