Your Skin from Head to Toe
Starting Early to Avoid Skin Cancer and Aging
The risk of premature aging of the skin and of the three main types of skin cancer can be reduced easily by protecting yourself against the sun's ultraviolet light. You especially want to avoid sunburn, as this increases the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are much more common, but they very rarely spread beyond the skin.
While it's important for adults to slather on the sunscreen, it's even more important for children. About 80% of your lifetime sun exposure happens before age 18. Even a couple of blistering sunburns in childhood increase the risk of later skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
The deep wrinkling and leatherlike appearance of aging facial skin can be attributed to sunlight damage. Have a look at an area of your skin that's rarely exposed to the sun — your inner upper arm, for instance. Compare that with the skin on the back of your hands or face to get an appreciation of what sunlight is doing to your skin. Although less significant, smoking also causes wrinkling of the skin.
Sun protection is more than just slathering on sunscreen lotion. Although using sunscreen is better than having no protection at all, the best protection is to avoid direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.