Saira George, M.D., knows the importance of taking care of her skin. George is a dermatologist at MD Anderson in Sugar Land.
“As dermatologists, we see the effect of sun damage in our clinics every day,” she says. “I think most people now realize that too much sun can cause skin cancer. But they may not realize just how much of what they thought was 'normal' aging of the skin – wrinkles, sun spots, loss of elasticity – is actually sun damage. And that’s something you can minimize.”
Here are some of the advice George offers to help protect your skin from the sun.
Make sun protection a simple part of your daily routine
Since the effects of sun damage are cumulative, doing something to protect your skin on a daily basis can add up to big benefits down the road.
“For a regular work day, I keep it simple and apply a daily moisturizer with sunscreen under my makeup every morning,” George says.
Factor in the sun if you're going to be outdoors
If she’s going to spend extended time in the sun, like outdoors at a soccer game or by the pool, George applies a dedicated sunscreen.
“I hear a lot of people say they don’t like sunscreen because they remember ones they tried in the past that felt greasy, smelled funny or stung their eyes,” George says. “But nowadays with all the different options available, there is a sunscreen for everyone. It’s a lot easier to find one that you like and will use.”
She recommends wearing a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum (meaning, it protects against UV-A and UV-B rays), has an SPF 30 or higher and is water resistant.
“It doesn’t have to be fancy. I use a drugstore brand,” she says.
For sunscreen to work as intended, though, it has to be applied correctly.
“Most of us don’t put on nearly enough sunscreen or reapply it enough,” she says. “I’ve certainly been guilty of that.”
She recommends applying sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside and reapplying it every two hours.
“Apply enough to get a nice even layer that you can massage in. Some rules of thumb are that an average sized person would need a nickel sized dollop for just the face and a full shot-glass (1 ounce) to cover their entire body,” George says.
Have a complete sun protection plan
“Sunscreen should just be part of what you do when you’re out in the sun,” George says. “What you wear or where you will be outside can be as, or even more, important as far as sun protection goes.”
When she’s going to be outdoors, she wears a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. If she’s heading to the beach or pool, George wears a sun shirt or rash guard.
“Clothing offers excellent, easy sun protection. And don’t forget to seek shade," George says. "If I’m hanging out outdoors, I look for a spot under a tree, umbrella or shade structure.”
George also tries to limit her time spent outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That’s when the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is strongest, especially during the summer. If she plans to do yard work or take her three young children to the park, she tries to schedule it for after 4 pm.
“All the sunscreen in the world won’t be enough if you’re out there for too long or during the wrong hours,” she says.
Pass on the knowledge and habits
As the mom of three children ages 8, 6 and 2, George also knows the importance of protecting her children from the sun. Just like she does with her own skin, she tries to keep her children out of the sun during peak hours, applies sunscreen and makes sure they’re armed with hats and sunglasses.
But she does more than that. She teaches them about the importance of sun protection.
“We try to make it a habit with them,” she says. “Sun protection should be a regular part of your day, just like brushing your teeth.”
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