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Skincare 101

Skincare Tips for Seniors

Now is the time to lay back and enjoy life. Whether your days consist of a game of golf, walks with your spouse, gardening, or taking the grandchildren to the park, you likely spend a good portion of your days out in the Tennessee sun. Taking good care of your skin and practicing healthy skincare habits can keep your skin looking youthful at any age and could help prevent more serious skin problems down the road.

The following sections give some practical advice on how you can take care of your skin on a daily basis.

  • Protecting yourself from the sun – Tips on sunscreen use and what to wear if you’ll be spending time outdoors during the day. Learn what SPF stands for (and what number you should use) and how to read the UV index.
  • How to perform skin self-exams – Follow these steps to check your skin for signs of sun damage. Early detection is crucial to treating any kind of skin condition.

Protecting yourself from the sun

If your kids are outdoors all the time, that means you’re outdoors all the time. Whether you’re on a beach vacation or keeping an eye on them in the backyard, you should protect your skin at all times. In addition to keeping your skin healthy, being vigilant when you are in the sun is the best thing you can do to prevent skin disease and premature aging.

Comprehensive sun protection includes:

  • Avoiding deliberate tanning, including use of indoor tanning devices that emit UV rays.
  • Staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Wearing protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat and long sleeves, when outdoors during the day.
  • Applying sunscreen year-round. Sunscreen should be broad spectrum (offers UVA and UVB protection) and have an SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outdoors to all skin that will be exposed. It should be reapplied after sweating or being in water. Many moisturizers and cosmetics include sunscreen, but most are only SPF 15.

Learn more about protecting yourself from the sun:

  • What does SPF stand for? – How sunscreens are rated and what number you should use.
  • How to read the UV Index – The UV Index is issued daily to advise you on the sun’s strength in your region. Learn why it’s important to know the UV Index for your area and where to find it.

What does SPF stand for?

SPF stands for sun protection factor. Sunscreens are rated or classified by the strength of their SPF. The SPF numbers on the packaging can range from as low as 2 to greater than 50. These numbers refer to the product’s ability to deflect the sun’s burning rays (UVB).

So how did they come up with those numbers? The sunscreen SPF rating is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce a sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause a sunburn on unprotected skin.

For example, let’s say you apply a sunscreen that is rated SPF 2. If it would normally take you 10 minutes to turn red under sun exposure without any sunscreen, it would take 20 minutes for your skin to turn red with SPF 2. With SPF 15 sunscreen it would take 15 times longer to burn, or 150 minutes.

Even with this protection, sunscreen breaks down and rubs off with normal wear, so it needs to be reapplied approximately every two hours.

Dermatologists strongly recommend using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater year-round for all skin types. This will help protect against sunburn, premature aging (e.g., age spots and wrinkles) and skin cancer.

Source: American Academy of Dermatology


How to read the UV Index

If you want to get a better idea how much time you can spend in the sun on a given day, you can take a look at the UV Index. The UV Index is issued daily to advise you on the strength of the sun’s ultraviolet rays in your region.

Some newspapers print the index along with the weather forecast. The Weather Channel or your local TV news stations may also mention the index when they broadcast the weather report. You can check the UV Index for your area here by typing in your zip code.

The UV Index uses a numerical scale to rate the strength of the sun’s UV exposure level. The higher the UV Index level, the greater the strength of the sun’s UV rays—and the faster you can burn.

In winter, reflection off snow can nearly double UV strength. Beachgoers should know that white sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and can double UV exposure.

Exposure
Category

Index Number

Sun Protection Messages

LOW

1-2

You can safely enjoy being outside. Wear sunglasses on bright days. If you burn easily, cover up and use sunscreen SPF 30+ .

MODERATE

3-5

Take precautions if you will be outside, such as wearing a hat and sunglasses and using sunscreen SPF 30+ .

Reduce your exposure to the sun’s most intense UV radiation by seeking shade during midday hours.

HIGH

6-7

Protection against sun damage is needed. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, use sunscreen SPF 30+ and wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants when practical.

Reduce your exposure to the sun’s most intense UV radiation by seeking shade during midday hours.

VERY HIGH

8-10

Protection against sun damage is needed. If you need to be outside during midday hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., take steps to reduce sun exposure. A shirt, hat and sunscreen are a must, and be sure you seek shade.

EXTREME

11+

Protection against sun damage is needed. If you need to be outside during midday hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., take steps to reduce sun exposure. A shirt, hat and sunscreen are a must, and be sure you seek shade.

Make a habit of checking the index so you’ll know how much sun protection you’ll need each day.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


How to perform skin self-exams

Early detection is key when it comes to skin cancer. You can help protect yourself with regular at-home body inspections. Here’s how:

  • Schedule regular inspections. Check all of your moles every six months, especially if you have a lot of them or have a personal or family history of skin cancer. See a dermatologist once a year for a routine full-body check.
  • Be familiar with your moles, including their location, size and color.
  • Look for new or changing moles. It’s normal to develop new moles into your early 20s, but not beyond. Pay attention to any new growths or moles that have changed in size, color or shape.
  • Take photos. If you have many moles, keeping up with potential changes is difficult. One way to remedy that is to take photos during your 6-month inspections. Save and date them on a computer and review as needed. You may find a “scary” mole that has always been there or find out that it actually is new.
  • Beware of pink or black. Normal moles and other benign skin growths typically are varying shades of tan to brown. Melanomas may be black or less commonly pink, while other skin cancers tend to be pink and often scaly. See your dermatologist if you notice a pink or black lesion.
  • Check “hidden” spots. Many people forget to check areas they can’t see easily. Be sure to check the soles of your feet and genital area. Ask a partner or friend to look over your back. Get a hairdresser to inspect your scalp. Skin cancers can appear even in areas where the sun doesn’t shine.
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