Americans aren’t the best at sun safety, but a recent study showed just how inept we are. The study from Advanced Dermatology shed light on how infrequently Americans are doing what they’re supposed to with sunscreen. It also highlighted how many are unfamiliar with the signs of skin cancer. We all know we need to wear sunscreen, so why aren’t we?
Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD says there are a handful of reasons Americans aren’t compliant with sunscreen. One reason is “not understanding all the preventative benefits of sunscreen reducing the risk of skin cancer, sunburn and aging.” She adds that people can also sometimes feel conflicted about the safety of sunscreen due to certain media coverage. “However, mineral-based sunscreen or physical sunscreens (mostly zinc based) are safe. These are the best choice for sensitive skin individuals or kids,” says Dr. Blyumin-Karasik.
People don’t wear sunscreen on their bodies enough
According to the study, a whopping 34 percent of people rarely or never wear sunscreen on their bodies. Only 13 percent of people say they wear sunscreen on their body most or all of the time, as opposed to 29 percent when it comes to the face. While the face may be of higher concern for the aging effects of the sun, the skin on the body is just as prone to skin cancer and sunburn as the face. “High levels of sun will increase the rate of skin cancer anywhere on the body. It’s important to protect any part of the skin that is going to have sun exposure,” says West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD.
Men are significantly less compliant with sunscreen use
While 44 percent of women wear sunscreen on their face most or all of the time, only 15 percent of men can say the same. Furthermore, 39 percent of men rarely or never wear sunscreen on their bodies, as compared to 28 percent of women. Dr. Beer points out that, in general, men are not as educated on skin health as women. “They typically don’t get skin care instruction when they are young, so they just don’t develop healthy skin habits,” he explains.
Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says men’s non-compliance generally extends across the board for skin care. She believes that if men are educated to “incorporate sunscreen every morning as part of a daily habit, right after brushing their teeth to preserve skin health and youth, they are more likely to integrate this into their wellness.”
She also points out that “They do not like applying something consistently, especially if it’s not cosmetically simple.” If sunscreen is “pasty white, greasy, stinky, irritating for the eyes, they won’t like it. So fragrance-free, lightweight, non-tinted formulas are ideal.” She recommends Avène Solaire UV Mineral Multi-Defense Sunscreen SPF 50+ ($34) and ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Daily mineral SPF 50+ Sunscreen ($60).
Most people don’t wear sunscreen on cloudy days, but they should
It may seem counterintuitive to wear sunscreen on a gray day, but it’s crucial for your skin health. “Although on cloudy days the UV index is lower, it’s deceivingly still powerful enough to cause significant sunburn and overall skin damage. So please use sunscreen the same way whether it’s sunny or cloudy,” urges Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. According to the study, 61 percent of people rarely or never wear sunscreen on cloudy days. Only 31 percent of people wear sunscreen year-round.
The majority of people have never been checked for skin cancer and don’t know the signs
A shocking 72 percent of people have never been checked for skin cancer by a doctor. Additionally, 84 percent don’t know the ABCDE rule. The ABCDE rule of skin cancer is an acronym for “asymmetrical, border, color, diameter, evolving.” Dr. Beer advises patients to look for spots or moles on your body “that are asymmetric, that have an irregular border, uneven color, diameter more than six mm (a pencil eraser).”