Backyard barbeques, pool days and ice cream – some of the great things about summer. Not so great? Sunburns – especially when you live with vitiligo.
Why is it so easy to burn when you live with vitiligo? Vitiligo is the result of the loss of pigment-producing skin cells – and without pigment, skin is more likely to burn in the sun. The good news? Vitiligo patients do not actually have an increased risk of skin cancer. In fact, several recent studies have shown that vitiligo patients have a decreased risk of skin cancer compared to the general population.
Even still, it’s important to cover up and keep your spots – and your skin – safe from the sun. Here are ten ways to do just that.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 or higher
Dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF 30 and higher for those with vitiligo. Both broad spectrum and SPF 30 are key here. While SPF measures effectiveness against UVB rays, both UVA and UVB rays can be harmful to the skin. Broad spectrum sunscreen will protect against both. When applying, don’t forget to put product on your ears, feet, back of your legs and under your arms – areas commonly forgotten.
Reapply sunscreen early and often
Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. Plan ahead and set a timer to give your product proper time to absorb. Just as important? Reapplication. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours. If you swim, use or towel or sweat, it should be applied more frequently.
Schedule outdoor time for early morning or late afternoon
According to the American Cancer Society, the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re planning an outdoor activity, schedule for early morning or late afternoon to avoid the harshest part of the day and protect your skin.
Wear UPF clothing
UPF, which stands for ultraviolet protection factor, is the protection rating given to clothing. Unlike SPF in sunscreen, which only measures effectiveness against UVB rays, UPF measures protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Brands like Coolibar and Mott50 specialize in UPF clothing, while other brands like J. Crew, REI and L.L. Bean also sell UPF clothing options.
Choose a rash guard for the pool or beach
Tired of reapplying sunscreen at the beach? Rash guards are athletic shirts designed for the water that protect against sunburn. You can find long-sleeve and short-sleeve rash guard shirts in addition to pants and one-piece swimsuits with long sleeves. Don’t forget to look for UPF on the label.
Carry a parasol or umbrella with UPF
Yes, that’s right – even umbrellas can be made with UPF frabic. If you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period, an umbrella might be your best choice for maximum coverage. Try swapping your standard umbrella for a one with UPF fabric during the warmer months. If you’re looking for something a little more fashion friendly, search for parasols on Amazon, but keep in mind that UPF fabric will always offer the best protection.
Invest in a wide-brimmed hat
Who doesn’t love a good summer hat? Wide-brimmed hats keep the sun off your face and your head – keeping the skin that peeks through your hair part safe too.
Buy cosmetics that have sunscreen
By no means should your foundation or other cosmetic be the sole source of sunscreen for your face. However, it doesn’t hurt to buy foundations or primers that have sunscreen as a bonus to protect your skin. Check the labels of your beauty products to determine the SPF level.
Get Vitamin D safely
While it’s not uncommon for those with vitiligo to have abnormally low levels of vitamin D due to the lack of pigment, that doesn’t mean you should get more by soaking up the sun. Talk to your doctor about testing your vitamin D levels and take the recommended dosage through vitamins.
Examine your skin regularly
While skin cancer is the deadliest form of cancer, there is a 99% survival rate when skin cancer is found early on. How do you make sure that happens? By doing self-exams regularly. According to WebMD, you should look for “any spot or marking that is new, or one that changes in size, shape, feel or color.” Learn more about skin cancer self-exams at WebMD. When in doubt, talk to your doctor.
How do you keep your vitiligo sun-safe?
Photos by Armando Silva.
Erika Page is a writer and blogger with universal vitiligo. Her first spots appeared on her spine when she was seven years old and today vitiligo covers her entire body. Based just south of Washington, D.C., Erika founded Living Dappled to create a community of inspiration and hope for girls and women living with vitiligo.