Love the skin you’re in? You should! That’s why just like with any good skincare habits, a full body skin exam should be part of your self care routine, too.
Sun exposure can be great for boosting our mood, hormones, vitamin D levels, and can relieve stress; but over-exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause premature aging, sunspots, and skin cancer. Just to name a few.
So while we may all have visions of being sun goddesses this summer, there’s a few self-care tips you should know before oiling up and working on your summer glow.
Why a Full Body Skin Exam Should be Part of Your Self Care Routine
My Skin History
I’m a better person when I’m tan.
Okay, not really. I’m the same me tan as I am pale, but I do like the way I look when I have a summer glow. Yes, it makes me sound vain. But I am who I am and I can’t deny that I just feel better about myself when I have a tan.
Being that I’m fair-complected with light hair and blue eyes doesn’t work in my favor, either. I have the kind of skin that instantly goes from see-through to lobster-red in the matter of minutes. But that’s never stopped me from trying.
In my late teens/early twenties, I lived in the tanning bed. I’m not exaggerating, either. I used to tan every single day, and I did this for years. Only stopping when I got married and became pregnant, because if you think UV ray exposure is frowned upon on a regular basis, it’s even more frowned upon when you’re carrying around a teeny tiny baby inside your uterus.
In that regard, you could say my son saved my life. I gave up the frequent trips to the tanning salon because frankly, I didn’t have time to tan anymore. I only saved those visits for when I “needed” to build a base tan when we were planning vacations to tropical destinations.
Fast forward a few more years and I finally decided I should probably schedule a head to toe skin check. What I didn’t realize at the time, was that a standard appointment would turn into a twice a year visit (minimum), for the foreseeable future. Leading to multiple mole removals, biopsies, stitches, further cuts and procedures, and a constant self-monitoring at home.
It turns out, my friends, that all those times my mother warned me not to tan – I should have listened to her.
While I’ve been fortunate so far, I don’t take any of it for granted. I’ve had multiple moles come back showing pre-cancerous cells, or changing cells, and it’s something that I have to keep a close eye on.
Tanning both indoors and outdoors can lead to skin injuries; damaging the skin cells, speeding up the skin-aging process, and can even cause skin cancer.
One in five Americans will end up developing some form of skin cancer by the age of 70, and almost half a million cases of skin cancer each year in the United States are linked to indoor tanning, which makes it more likely for those who use tanning beds to develop skin cancer than it is for smokers to develop lung cancer.
The risk of developing melanoma before age 35 goes up by 75% by tanning indoors just once. Once. Let that sink in.
Who’s at risk?
UV Ray and sun exposure can damage all types of skin; not just fair skin. That’s why it’s important for everyone to practice sun safety, regardless of their skin tone, and always be on the lookout for changes in their skin.
Melanoma in those with darker skin tones most often occur in areas of non-exposed skin (like the palms, soles of the feet, mucous membranes, and nail regions) up to 60-75%.
How does our skin pigmentation change?
When our skin is exposed to UV Rays, the cells on our top layer of skin become damaged. As a protective measure, our skin will try to compensate and prevent further damage by producing more melanin, which results in darkening of our skin. This damage will build up over time starting from our very first exposure.
Importance of Regular Skin Exams
When detected early, the prognosis for skin cancer can be good. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, it’s recommended that adults perform a monthly at-home full body skin exam, and see a dermatologist at least annually.
What to look for when performing self skin checks:
It’s important to be familiar with your skin, and be on the lookout for anything new or changing. During your self performed full body skin exam, keep an eye out for:
*New growths or old areas that are changing in size, or becoming pearly, transparent, or multicolored
*New or changing moles or spots that increase in size, shape, color, or texture
*New or changing spots that are painful or itchy
*Open sores that do not heal
If you notice anything similar to what’s listed above, you should call your physician or dermatologist to schedule an appointment immediately. You can learn more about how to perform a step-by-step self skin exam at TheBigSee.com.
What Can You Expect at Your Dermatologist Appointment?
If you don’t currently see a dermatologist, you will want to find one in your area. While any physician can perform a head to toe exam, dermatologists are trained specifically in skin conditions.
If it’s your first time getting a skin exam, it can feel a little awkward knowing that another person is going to be examining every inch of your skin. To prepare for your exam, write down any questions or concerns you want to discuss with your physician. This also includes any areas you’ve noticed on your body that you want to address.
Avoid wearing makeup, and keep in mind that you will also be asked to remove socks, undergarments, and if you’re wearing your hair up, your physician will most likely ask you to take it down so they can inspect your scalp.
A lot of times, your physician will also ask to look inside your mouth, and between your fingers and toes. When we say full body, it’s truly a full body exam.
Most of the time, your exam shouldn’t take longer than about 15 minutes. If your physician does find a spot that looks questionable, they will ask you to sign a consent for treatment form, and remove the area during the appointment. This will involve injecting a numbing medication to the area, as well as removing and cauterizing. They’ll also provide you with information on how to care for the area once you get home.
How to Protect Your Skin Year Round
It’s important that skin protection become part of your routine all year long, and not just during the summer months. Best practices for skin care include:
*Wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, even on overcast days
*Limit your time in the sun when it’s at its strongest (usually between 10 am and 2 pm)
*Protecting your eyes with sunglasses and wearing a hat on sunny days
*Seek shade when possible
*Performing self skin-checks on a regular basis
Some of our favorite skin products:
Fake Bake helps you achieve a golden glow, streak-free, all from the comfort of your home. It’s easy to apply, and doesn’t leave any bad odors behind.
St. Tropez is another great option for at-home tanning. It applies evenly and streak free, and will usually last about 7 days.
Dermatologist recommended, EltaMD will help protect and nourish your skin.
Recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation, Alba Botanica provides broad spectrum protection and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
COOLA Organic Mineral Sunscreen Tinted Lip Balm, Lip Care for Daily Protection, Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Protect your lips with COOLA Organic Mineral Tinted Lip Balm! Perfect for giving you a polished look while still practicing skin safety.
Add style to your summer look with a sun straw hat; perfect for a day at the pool/beach, or enjoying a summer stroll.