Are you Sun Safe?

May is the month of beautiful weather, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and Cinco De Mayo. Did you know it is also Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month? Did you know that Monday, May 6th is Melanoma Monday? Probably not, right?


As some of you know, I have been in the dermatology industry for over five years now. I started out in pharmaceutical sales selling psoriasis and eczema drugs and just recently switched to a cosmeceuticals position. I sell suncare and skincare products to dermatologists, plastic surgeons and med-spas (and they in turn sell the products to their patients). I’m not here to plug my company or products…I’m here to add some education.

Growing up, my mom was always really good about keeping my sis and I well coated in the sunscreen. I am lebanese (50%) and tan quite easily so I was always very dark in the summer. As I grew into my teenage/college years,  I baked. It was so cool to tan, right? I mean, I put afro-sheen  spray all over my body and would sit by the pool.  I’m not lying. It smelled good and gave you a nice shine to attrack the sun. Baby oil was way too messy. I will admit, I only went to the tanning bed a few times. I never wanted to spend my money on tanning (thank goodness).

I would use sunscreen in my 20s but would still hang by the pool (think SPF 15-30). When I got my job in 2008, it all came to a hault. It is NOT okay to walk into a dermatologists office with a tan. I now wear a hat to the pool/beach and always, always wear sunscreen and reapply, reapply, reapply.  I have been checked and luckily, my skin is great. I even get the “only see me every two years.”

When I am running, no matter the season, I have on water resistent sunscreen.  I would say that 90% of the time, you will find me in a hat too.  I wanted to spend some time in the month of May focusing on suncare because I don’t think people are aware…and since most of my readers are runners and we are outside A LOT, it seemed important.


So here we go…

Sun 101 that I think most people aren’t aware of:

UVA: the aging rays

  • They cause wrinkles, pigmentation, and loss of elasticity.
  • Penetrate and damage collagen and cells
  • Can pass through glass
  • Are not affected by weather or altitude (hey, out west!)
  • Are present all day, every day of the year (yes, winter too)

UVB: the burning rays 

  • Mostly affect the outer layer of the skin
  • Causes sunburns and tanning that increase the risk of skin cancer
  • Vary wtih time of day and seasons and are stronger in summer

I figured I would bullet my key ideas with links to some great, longer articles if you are interested:

  • The FDA changed how sunscreens can be labeled. Here is an example, but the details are “water resistent” not “water proof” (and they have a  40 min. or 80 min. resistence); have to be approved to be broad spectrum (some stuff at target is from last year-note if it doesn’t say broad spectrum, it’s old or not legit); no such thing at 100SPF, the highest you can get is 50+.
  • Physical blocks sunscreens give you the best protection from the sun.  Just find one that is elegant and won’t leave you white (zinc and titanium dioxide).
  • Tanning beds are not safe. I don’t care what you say, the CDC agrees with me too. I will literally lose my mind and get on my soap box if you tell me it’s healthy and a great way to get vitamin D. We are runners. You should be getting enough Vitamin D, even through daily sunscreen! 
  • Young people get skin cancer. Go get checked once a year. If you missed SarahOuAL’s post on her appointment, check it out.  You can find a dermatologist near you, and even see if there are free screenings available (note-there are a TON in May).
  • Sun goes through your car. Check out this truck driver. No really. If you only click on one of the articles, let it be this one. It’s why you should wear sunscreen everyday, EVEN if you work in an office.

Bottom line. Wear a daily sunscreen (under your makeup). Apply a water resistent, sweat friendly sunscreen when you head outside. Look for products with minimum active ingredients and physical blockers if you can. Get a skin check.

Hope I didn’t bore you and you found this to be helpful. If you have more questions, let me know. If you have a story you would like to share, let me know too. I’d love to feature you in the month of May. And if you stuck around and read all of this…

Tell me: Do you where sunscreen every day? Do you get your skin checked annually? If so, what was the last result?  If not, will you go call a dermatologist and let me know? A commenter or two may get a little something in the mail…

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  • Thanks for sharing E! I used to be awful about remembering sunscreen, but now I am pretty good at it. One of my coworkers tans and it drives me nuts! I want to smack her and tell her to stop going. I think her skin looks nasty and she is only 30!!!!

  • Love this post! Especially because a lot of people I train with will not wear sunscreen no matter how much I preach to them, needless to say they will be receiving a link to your blogpost. 🙂 I do wear sunscreen everyday and on long bike rides I re-apply. My mom and grandmother have both had skin cancer so I take this very seriously and get checked every year.

  • I had 2 moles removed from my leg and arm last year that were non-cancerous. I am religious about sunscreen, but lots of people make fun of me for it! It is kind of unbelievable how naive people are about skin cancer. Thanks for the informative blog, friend!

  • I have been waiting for this post! Very good, thank you!
    I have been meaning to make an appt (my first) to get my skin checked. I didn’t start wearing sunscreen until after college and spent LOTS of time before that hiking in the mountains. Yikes! I can definitely see the sun spots on my face, arms, and hands. Not pretty.

  • Thank you for this. I am horrible about wearing sunscreen except when at the pool or when I know I will be at a long outdoor event. My foundation has SPF 15 in it but I don’t wear anything underneath. Can you recommend any over the counter brands that aren’t too gooey and wear well? I just read a post on Run Junkees about a woman who has a tumor the size of her fist removed from her leg! Scary stuff

    • You definitely need more than the foundation! I know there are several athlete lines out there that are good over the counter stuff. I honestly wouldn’t recommend a single product that you buy at the drug store. Sorry!! Look for zinc!

  • I so regret all the time I spent baking in high school and college! My wrinkles suck. And I’ve also had two spots removed now just as a precaution. I’m so good about sunscreen now, though, and get my annual skin check up, too. I can’t undo the damage from earlier, but I can be good now. Great tips!

  • Well I’ll be calling a dermatologist for an appt. today after reading this. I haven’t been in about seven years. Way too many! Thanks for the great reminders!

  • I needed this. though I tan easily, I have light hair, light eyes which puts me at risk–I think about all those track meets and softball games with my skin exposed when I was younger. I am getting better at wearing sunscreen and have found it helps to have it in my make-up. After baby comes, I think my next appt. needs to be at the dermatologist.

  • Loved this post. Growing up in the south definitely did not help my skin. Wrinkles are there and I have more than one case of sun poisioning as a child. I have been diligent about as an adult. It is tricky because tan makes fat look so much better. 🙂 However I am embracing my white legs and going with it.
    Thanks for the great post.

  • What sunscreen do you recommend for oily skin? Lately, I have found some make up with sunscreen added – is this enough? I am very fair and burn easily so I am trying to be more mindful of sun damage. I’ve adopted an appreciation for my oh-so-white skin and now working to take better care of it. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

    • So sorry for the delay! I hate to say that I recommend my company, but I do…we make several for oily skin. You definitely need more than the sunscreen that is just in your makeup. Your best option is a daily sunscreen with zinc.

  • Thanks for this post, Elizabeth. I think that society has really made tanning a desirable thing and I know that multiple tanning salons are constantly advertising here on my college campus. I don’t tan at a tanning salon, but I’m very guilty of being out in the sun without protection, especially after getting burnt once since I know that will be the only time all summer. Thanks for a professional insight.

  • Such a great reminder! I can definitely do better with sunscreen no doubt, but I do try to wear it regularly. I had a mole behind my ear checked with a dermascope earlier this year. Luckily it wasn’t at risk, but my dermatologist still burned it off with liquid nitrogen. Easy peasy! I have so many moles all over though that I really ought to get them all checked. Thank you for the reminder!

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