Category Archives: Skin Cancer

SLIP, SLOP, What?

SLIP, SLOP, What?

Effective Methods of Sunscreen Application

If you ask any dermatologist what the secret is behind healthy, beautiful skin, it’s practically guaranteed that they’ll mention sunscreen. But this skincare product doesn’t just protect us from fine lines, an uneven complexion, or sunburn – it also is a key component to manageing skin conditions such as rosacea and mostly importantly, protects us from potentially life-threatening skin cancers like melanoma.

However, the effectiveness of sunscreen is not just based on the product itself, but on how you use it. Simply put, using the best, most expensive, most dermatologically-recommended sunscreen in the world won’t be able to protect your skin from the sun unless you apply it correctly. 

So if you want to maximise the benefits of your sunscreen, make sure you’re putting it on the way it should be. Here we list 5 methods for effective sunscreen application.

 

Apply it on all exposed areas of the body

Everything the sunlight touches should be covered by sunscreen. The face, legs, and arms get a lot of attention. But how about the ears, lips, eyelids? How about feet and toes if you’re wearing sandals? How about the backs of your hands? If you don’t cover all your bases, you might find one area aging a lot faster than the rest. 

For the eyes, UV-protection sunglasses in wrap-around style are best for those spending time outdoors. For the lips, use lip balm that offers at least SPF 15 and reapply every few hours and after meal times as it can get wiped away while talking or eating.

 

Apply a shot glass’ worth of sunscreen

One of the main reasons that people don’t get the full benefits of sunscreen is because they apply too little of it. On average, the majority of people put 20% to 50% less product than they should. 

According to studies, each square centimetre on your body should be covered with 2mg of sunscreen. But that’s pretty difficult to measure on the field. A good rule of thumb is to dispense a shot glass-worth of sunscreen (around 45mL) on your body. If you’re into baking or cooking, it can also be thought of as 2-3 tablespoons for the body and 1-2 teaspoons from the neck and face.

It may sound like a lot, but applying sunscreen in the right amounts will allow you more effective protection for a longer period of time.

 

Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure

Sunscreen doesn’t provide instantaneous sun protection the way clothes or shade would. You need to give it time to get absorbed into the skin where it will do its magic. Apply your sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before leaving your home. 

It is very important to follow this rule before you go for a swim or engage in strenuous physical activity. The water and sweat can easily wash off freshly-applied sunscreen, and leave you vulnerable to the effects of the sun.

 

Know when to reapply sunscreen

Sunscreen loses effectiveness over time and as it gets wiped away. If you slather on the appropriate amount in the morning and have minimal sweating done during the day, you’re probably good for the next 3-4 hours.

But if you’re doing anything to remove that layer of sunscreen protection, you will have to reapply more often. Activities that wipe sunscreen off include sweating, exposure to water, and rubbing motions such as towel drying. In this case, you should apply after you dry yourself off, and ideally wait 20 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun again.

 

Conclusion

Observing the proper method of sunscreen application will give you the full protection of the product you’re using. But remember, sunscreen is supposed to be used in conjunction with other sun defence measures, including wearing sun-protective clothing, and seeking shade. 

A combination of these methods will give you the best protection against the sun, and afford you healthier, happier skin.

References

Li, H., Colantonio, S., Dawson, A., Lin, X., & Beecker, J. (2019). Sunscreen Application, Safety, and Sun Protection: The Evidence. Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery, 23(4), 357–369. https://doi.org/10.1177/1203475419856611

 

The information presented on this website and in this article is for general information and example purposes only, does not contain health advice specific for users and must not be relied on for that purpose.  Please see your GP, dermatologist or other health care professional for specific advice.

BCC starting image

What is a BCC?

What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most prevalent form of cancer in the world, with millions of people diagnosed with a BCC every year. It is by far the most common type of skin cancer seen in Australia.  But there are measures you can take to minimise your chances of being part of the stats. The key to doing this is to first understand what basal carcinoma is and how it comes about.

 

How does basal cell carcinoma come about?

Our skin cells slough off everyday. Whether it’s because of mechanical friction or chemical exfoliation, every human leaves behind a wake of dead skin cells. But if our skin sheds continuously, why do we never see the deeper, raw layers?

 

For that, we can thank our basal cells. These form the deepest part of the most superficial layer of the skin called the epidermis. Basal cells divide steadily in order to replace the skin cells we slough off everyday so we are always protected.

 

The problem is when basal cells divide abnormally fast due to cancerous changes. They spread upwards to the surface of the skin causing noticeable lesions. If left to their own devices, these cells can also spread in the opposite direction, going deeper into the skin and damaging structures such as blood vessels, nerves, and bone.  The good news is that BCC’s rarely spread and cause nasty problems.  

 

 

BCC cross section of skin

Risk factors of BCC

So what causes basal cells to go berserk and start dividing uncontrollably? Well, the answer is mutations.  Whilst these mutations can be inherited from one’s parents, the bulk of mutations occur from exposure to DNA-damaging factors. And you guessed it, the culprit is most often ultraviolet rays from the sun. Chronic, unprotected exposure to the sun causes problems with DNA repair systems and induces mutations. 

 

People who have mutations in the genes responsible for the hedgehog signalling pathway (yes, that is an actual medical term) are predisposed to cancers including BCC. This system is essential in regulating cell growth. When the genes here run amok, cells grow unchecked and tumours result.

 

Symptoms of BCC

Because BCC’s present on the surface of the skin, it makes it easy to detect with the naked eye. With knowledge of abnormal skin lesions and daily observation of one’s skin, it’s possible to catch the early stages of BCC’s.  Catching BCC’s in its early stages may mean avoiding surgery, or if surgery is required, having a smaller scar.  This is particularly important for BCC’s on the face which can encroach on important structures like your eyes and nose.

 

Keep an eye out for patches of skin that look different from the surrounding area and appear to grow bigger over time (keeping in mind that BCC’s in general are slow growing). Look for changes in color, texture, or elevation. Some BCCs present as skin wounds that don’t seem to heal and bleed, some as red rough patches and others as smooth skin-coloured or pink humps, bumps or sometimes divots in the skin.

 

Note that other skin lesions may be confused with BCC, especially to untrained eyes. But remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you find something on your skin that looks suspicious, visit a doctor for an expert opinion. 

 

How to minimise the risk of BCC

The association between chronic exposure to UV radiation and basal cell carcinoma has long been established. Consistent and proper use of sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing and accessories, seeking shade and limiting time spent under the sun are simple measures that can effectively minimise your chances of getting this disease.

 

For the young, start being vigilant with sun protection early.  For those of us who have received plenty of UV rays in our lifetime, be vigilant about looking out for new and different spots and seek medical attention early.

 

Resources:

 

https://dermnetnz.org/topics/basal-cell-carcinoma/

https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/bcc

https://dermnetnz.org/topics/genetics-of-basal-cell-carcinoma

 

 

The information presented on this website is for general information and example purposes only, does not contain health advice specific for users and must not be relied on for that purpose.  Please see your GP, dermatologist or other health care professional for specific advice.