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Skin safety: Making sure you're getting the most from your sunscreen

It's an important time to start talking about sunscreen and sun damage facts.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Before long, the sunshine and warm weather will be here for us to enjoy, but how can you protect your skin and your family from sun damage?

It's an important time to start talking about sunscreen and sun damage facts. We recently visited the dermatology office of Dr. Christopher Obeime.

One person dies every hour from melanoma in the U.S.

He said everyone should be wearing sunscreen every day, sun or no sun from the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

He said the fact one person in this country dies every hour from melanoma should make us all want to know the facts about the sun.

Dr. Obeime said everyone needs sunscreen.He said babies under the age of six months don't need it but need to be covered from the sun. And that water proof sunscreen that you think keeps your kids protected for hours isn't effective. "Re-application, re-application, if you get in the pool it's washed out," he said. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen anymore. They've changed the label in the last three years. It's water resistant and some of them are not quite but all of them do wash out".

(Source: WTHR staff)

When it comes to finding the right sunscreen, the choices are endless. From SPFs — sun protection factor — that go all the way past 100, to Broad Spectrum and sprays versus creams, it's easy to get overwhelmed.

Dr. Obeime said if you are going to burn in one hour, and you apply a 30 SPF, it will take you 30 hours to burn. "Really you don't need SPF 100 or SPF 70. Put 30 on and put it on well, you are covered. Also the sprays, I always see people they go on vacation and they spray, and they always have this little strip that they miss. They do work, and if that's all you can do, it's better than nothing, ideally though the creams work better."

So how much is enough?

The National Institutes of Health recommends these sunscreen rules:

  • 1 teaspoon of sunscreen for the face, head and neck
  • 1 teaspoon each to the upper extremities
  • 1 teaspoon each to the front torso and the back torso
  • 2 teaspoons each to the lower extremities

Another important fact about sunscreen is that it does expire.

Each bottle is marked with the date. But expired sunscreen is still better than no sunscreen.

Dr. Obeime sees patients every day with sun damage. He says everyone should have a baseline check of their moles by the time they are out of high school, and if there is strong family history of melanoma, you should get yearly checks. He says also know the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

A-Asymmetry

This benign mole is not asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle, the two sides will match, meaning it is symmetrical. If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match, meaning it is asymmetrical, a warning sign for melanoma.

B-Border

A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.

C-Color

Most benign moles are all one color — often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.

D-Diameter

Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip (one-fourth inch or six millimeters), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

E-Evolving

Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting points to danger.