This is why you should always wear sunscreen (even when you aren’t outside very much)

Below is a little real world experiment with one of my favorite brands of sunscreen. BlueLizard sunscreen gives great protection and the bottle turns blue when there is sufficient UV light to cause skin damage.

The first photo was taken in the car while in the garage (and the bottle is white). The second photo was taken ten minutes later after driving just a few miles in the afternoon sun (in Seattle). The bottle was never outside- the only UV light came through the drivers window. As you can see the bottle is bright blue! This means that you are getting significant UV exposure through the car window. I have done this experiment inside my home and the same thing happens. UV light passes through windows, so protect yourself and always wear your sunscreen!

After ten minutes driving in the car

After ten minutes driving in the car


Is your manicure going to give you skin cancer?

Gel and shellac manicures are all the rage right now- and I personally know why- they look great, dry instantly and last longer than regular polish. However, these types of polish require light to harden/set and many salons use small UV light sources, which raises the question of skin cancer safety.

This type of salon service is relatively new, so it will be many years before we really know if there is an increased risk of skin cancer. A recent article in a dermatology journal had the opinion that the risk is minimal. I feel that UV exposure at the salon is completely unnecessary. It has a risk of cancer (even if it is small) and causes photo-aging (this means ugly brown spots). LED lights can be used and give the same results (great nails) without any UV exposure. I had one manicure with UV and noticed a sun spot on the top of my hand. That was my first and last manicure at a salon that used UV light.

Bottom line- If you want to try gel or shellac, look for a salon that uses an LED light source.


Check out your skin!

I am often asked (by patients and acquaintances) whether a skin check is necessary. That is a tough question. There are no firm guidelines as to who should have a skin check and how often. My general guidelines for who needs a skin check:

1. If you have a history of skin cancer (basal cell, squamous cell or melanoma), you should have a yearly skin check.

2. If you have a history of actinic keratosis or abnormal moles (pre skin cancers), you should have a yearly skin check.

3. If you have a history of tanning bed exposure you should have a skin check and your doctor will determine how often you should return. Tanning beds increase risk of skin cancer significantly.

4. If your siblings have had skin cancer, you should have a skin check.

5. If you have over 50 moles, you should have at least one skin check and your doctor will determine how often you should return.

6. If you have a mole that is changing quickly (weeks to months) in size or color or has symptoms such as bleeding, itching or pain, you should at least have that mole checked.

I recommend that everyone check their own skin every couple of months to look for changes. Changing moles (see above) or sores/pimples that don’t heal in a month should be evaluated by your doctor.

Check out the American Academy of Dermatology for more information on skin cancer and to find a dermatologist in your area.