Stop Making Excuses, Start Using Sunscreen

Excuse #5: "I don't need sunscreen because my skin is naturally dark."

"Skin cancer is color-blind," warns Jeanine Downie, MD, a dermatologist in Montclair, NJ, and coauthor of Beautiful Skin of Color. In fact, skin cancer rates are increasing among Latinos--many of whom have dark skin. Mixed racial heritage may be one reason for the rise, says Vivian Bucay, MD, clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

"Hispanics are more genetically diverse than other groups, so even if they have dark skin, they could burn just as someone with fair German or Irish skin would," she says. Plus, those with dark skin may not recognize skin cancers as early in their development as people with light skin. (One study found advanced stages of melanoma at time of diagnosis in 18% of Hispanics and 26% of African Americans, compared with 12% of Caucasians.)

If that's not reason enough for SPF, Dr. Downie has one more: Sun deepens dark spots common in all women of color. Her protection pick: sheer, nonchalky Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 30 ($10; neutrogena. com).

Excuse #6: "I look so good with a tan."

Think long-term: Saggy, leathery skin is not pretty. Instead, try the subtle sheen of Hawaiian Tropic Shimmer Effect Lotion Sunscreen SPF 40 ($9; drugstores).

Excuse #7: "I haven't gotten burned yet."

"This is the skin equivalent of 'I've never had a car wreck, so I don't need a seat belt,'" says Cambridge, MA, derm Ranella Hirsch, MD. Though a cavalier attitude toward sunscreen may not be a big deal when you're young, skin loses its ability to produce melanin effectively as you get older, and that may actually make you more likely to burn. The fact is, sun damage--including wrinkles and loss of firmness--occurs whether or not you're seeing red. And that's a good reason to use a sunscreen like Avon Anew Solar Advance Sunscreen Body Lotion SPF 30 ($34;; it prevents burning and helps to heal past damage with a blend of antioxidant-rich botanicals.

Excuse #8: "Skin cancer is one of the most treatable forms of cancer."

UVB rays lead to the development of the two most common types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, triggering melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. While it's true that melanoma is usually curable when caught early, it still kills 8,000 Americans a year. And those who are lucky enough to recover from skin cancer aren't necessarily unscathed. Take basal cell carcinomas, for instance: "They penetrate deeply and slowly destroy healthy tissue," explains Andrew Kaufman, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. Both the biopsy and the surgery to remove the lesions can leave a scar or, in rare cases, disfigurement.

Still not screaming for sunscreen? A number of studies also show that having skin cancer increases your risk of developing other cancers, including breast, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, lung, and kidney. One explanation: "Even a little UV light can weaken cells in the skin and compromise your immune surveillance," says Dr. Bucay. "It's like removing the security guards from a bank and allowing the robbers to come in."

Burn Notice

Despite your best efforts, you might still burn. Here's how to heal.

Pop an Aspirin immediately to help with the pain and decrease inflammation so your skin won't get as red.

Drink eight glasses of water a day over the next 48 hours. Water cools you from the inside out and helps stave off dehydration (you lose moisture through burned skin).

Soothe skin and speed healing by soaking a cloth in anti-inflammatory witch hazel and applying it to the affected area. Dickinson's Original Witch Hazel Oil Controlling Towelettes ($5; drugstores) work well for this purpose too.


More from Prevention:

Best anti-aging skin care products

6 New easy to use sunscreens

8 Foods for seriously pretty skin

16 Skin care tips derms do themselves

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