Summer skin care safety

PacMed dermatologist explains the importance of mindful skin care practices during summer

Summer has finally graced Washington state with its presence, causing people to migrate outside for outdoors galore. Amid the excitement of celebratory BBQs, water park weekends and poolside lounging, it can be easy to neglect proper skin care for summertime. Thankfully, Pacific Medical Centers’ dermatologist and U.S. Air Force Reserve senior flight surgeon at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, McChord Field, Matthew R. Gee, MD, FAAD (Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology), is here to offer professional advice to ensure that time spent in the sun is safe and fun.

Sunny weather has finally arrived in Washington! What summer skin care tips do you suggest to those who are ready to indulge in fun-in-the-sun activities?

Keep in mind that on average, one person dies of melanoma skin cancer every hour, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun (and also indoor tanning beds) is the most preventable skin cancer risk factor. To protect yourself from the sun, seek shade, wear protective clothing including a hat with a three-inch to four-inch brim that goes all the way around, and use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Also, sunscreen should be applied one-half hour before going outside, so the skin has time to absorb it. Sunscreen is broken down over time by the sun and wears off with sweating and water exposure. Remember to reapply it at least every two hours and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. At least two tablespoons of sunscreen is needed to cover the entire body surface. I also advise against using indoor tanning beds.

Despite the transition into warmer weather, we still will see our fair share of overcast skies. Do you have any specific suggestions for skin care during these times?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through clouds. This is the reason people often end up with serious sunburns on overcast days if they’ve spent time outside with no sun protection. Bottom Line: use the same sun protection on cloudy days as recommended for sunny days.

What treatments do you recommend for sunburns?

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half doesn’t match the other.
  • B is for Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
  • C is for Color that varies from one area to another.
  • D is for  Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than six millimeters (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color.

What else would you like readers to know about summer safety skin care?

The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams, looking for the ABCDE’s as described above. If you notice any suspicious spots on your skin or your partner’s, or if anything changes, itches or bleeds, see a board-certified dermatologist. To learn more about skin cancer detection and prevention, or to find a free SPOTme® skin cancer screening, visit