May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month and I feel compelled to speak on this matter. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer (by wearing sunscreen). Sun is the number one cause of skin cancer and currently Canada has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world.
A big thanks to our amazing skincare community and prominent YouTubers, who have been able to really spread the word about the importance of wearing sunscreen. It can be difficult to find the right facial sunscreen and everyone has their own reasons. The skincare companies are finally listening to the consumers to develop suitable formulas dedicated to all skin types and colours.
Since I am just an informed consumer and not a dermatologist (disclaimer, DUH), I wanted to dig deeper on the facts surrounding skin cancer. I did so by attending a webinar hosted by Save Your Skin Foundation and Dr. Thomas G. Salopek from University of Alberta.
To ensure it’s a credible source, I confirmed he’s a professor in the medicine department and dermatology division. He demonstrated TONS of knowledge on this matter, and, I’m here to summarize the most important key findings I took away.
Men are more likely to develop skin cancer than women
Skin cancer is actually the 8th most common cancer, at least here in Canada. The statistics indicate that men are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than women. More specifically, 1 in 57 men are expected to develop melanoma during their lifetime and 1 in 227 will die from it.
This indicates to me the utmost importance for MEN to be extra cautious and to take care of themselves. Guys, please, wear your sunscreen! Especially if you’re directly exposed to the sun. That being said, the stats for women are nothing to scoff at, so we all have to be prudent when it comes to sun protection.
Melanoma is primarily found in Caucasians, however, that doesn’t exempt all shades of skin colour
According to Dr. Salopek, melanoma is primarily a cancer found in Caucasians, especially those who display these traits:
High tendency to sunburn
Inability to tan and/or fair complexion
Blue/lighter coloured eyes
High volume of surface moles & Dysplastic nevi (these are moles that are larger than the average mole)
Red or blond hair
If you identify with many of these traits, be sure to always wear sunscreen and protective clothing.
Yes, research suggests that Caucasians have an increased risk, but that doesn’t mean a person of colour doesn’t have take preventative measures. EVERYONE is susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer. Remember that!
Warning signs of skin cancer
Not being an expert on this matter, I did discover you should request for an additional skin examination when you’re getting your yearly physical examinations. It only takes a few minutes, yet this procedure isn’t usually included in a standard physical check-up.
Additionally, you can easily perform self-examinations such as the ABCDEs and SCANs. If you are worried about moles getting bigger or new moles popping up over time, again, visit your doctor.
Preventing the increased risk of skin cancer
Be mindful of the sun
Aim to do your outdoor activities before or after the sun’s peak hours, if possible. Dr. Salopek suggested doing them either before 11am or after 5pm.
Wear protective clothing
Of course, avoiding the sun’s peak hours isn’t always an option. However, covering yourself up can assist tremendously in avoiding sun damage by wearing protective clothing such as sunglasses or a hat.
Save Your Skin Foundation has a resource list of UV protective clothing that has been specifically designed to filter out the harmful UV rays. To note, the most famous ones you’ll recognize are Patagonia and Columbia.
Most IMPORTANTLY, wear SUNSCREEN all year long!
If this one isn’t obvious, then I really don’t know what to say! You even have to wear sunscreen when you’re indoors because the UVA light can penetrate windows (and even cloud cover). Crazy right!? Unless you plan on sitting in a windowless room, I suggest slathering on some sunscreen.
Ideally, especially if you’re out in the sun, you want to reapply your sunscreen every two to three hours.
My personal favourite facial sunscreen recommendations
This is an absolutely stunning lightweight Korean brand sunscreen (remember my K-brand post!?), which is perfect for those who have normal to oily skin. It’s a physical sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, as well as soothing ingredients like aloe barbadensis leaf extract (derived from aloe vera plant!)
It has a slight white cast when you first apply the sunscreen. If you properly spread it over your face (like spreading that delicious Nutella on your toast, hello!), it dries town to a beautiful matte finish. They also have a waterproof and essence version.
This is a dry mist chemical sunscreen that contains homosalate and octocrylene, both oil-soluble. It also includes mexoryl, which is a L’Oreal exclusive chemical sunscreen ingredient. L’Oreal is La Roche Posay’s parent company, if you didn’t know!
Being a dry mist, it’s perfect for reapplication throughout the day, especially if you’re wearing makeup. Better yet, if you don’t have the ability to wash your hands (let’s say you’re on the beach), this would be perfect solution. It can also be used on the body, although, being rather pricey, I would reserve this for application on the face.
Paula’s Choice Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF50
This is a beautiful lightweight all-in-one chemical sunscreen and moisturizer that contains Avobenzone (2%), Octinoxate (7.5%), Octisalate (5%), and Octocrylene (2%). It also includes several antioxidant and soothing ingredients which allow your skin to combat collagen-damaging free radicals.
It does provide a matte finish, however, I found that for my oily skin it still wears a little greasy throughout the day. This may be due to the fact that I used it as both my moisturizer and SPF protectant. I suggest applying a more hydrating moisturizer prior to this fluid to achieve less of a slick finish throughout the day.
Good news everyone, I’m currently in the process of testing out even more sunscreens. I’ve tried many (like, A LOT!) and several haven’t worked for me, which is why I refrain from including them here. Stay tuned for an additional list of sunscreens in the upcoming summer months!
I highly encourage to watch the melanoma webinar hosted by Save Your Skin Foundation. They also have amazing resources and information available to you.
Finally, I beg you to take the extra (short) time to protect your skin from the sun. This can potentially save you from developing melanoma over time – which has proven to be be both fatal, yet preventable. Let’s continue to spread awareness on skin cancer in May, and encourage everyone in your life to start wearing sunscreen!