Teenage girls sunbathing on the beach or Jersey shoreIt’s never too early to start protecting yourself against sun damage, and if you are a teenage girl this message is especially important.

“It only takes one blistering sunburn to increase your risk of skin cancer. Sun exposure plays a significant role in the development of melanoma. Although more adults are using sunscreens during outdoor activities, many are unaware of how important it is to make sure that their children are getting the necessary skin protection,” says Dr. Desiree Ratner, director of dermatologic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia University Medical Center.

Teenage girls should be particularly careful, since melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer, is the most common cancer in young women between the ages of 25 and 29. Much of the damage from the sun in these young women will already have occurred in their teens.

Protect Against Harmful Effects of the Sun

Dr. Ratner recommends the following guidelines to help protect teens and tweens from the harmful effects of the sun:

  • Use self-tanning creams. Tanning beds are not good for anyone. Teenagers and young adults looking to get that perfect tan should use tanning creams to get a safe summer glow.
  • Be wary of freckles. If you develop freckles on your skin, this may be a sign of sustained sun damage. Freckles generally develop in sun-exposed areas such as the face, chest, and arms, and they are more likely to develop in fair-skinned people with blonde or red hair.
  • Apply sunscreen generously. Teens should apply sunscreen to the entire surface of their body about 30 minutes before going outside; if they swimming, they should reapply once they are out of the water. Be sure the SPF of the sunscreen is 30 or higher and that it has both UVA and UVB absorbing/blocking ingredients.
  • Minimize exposure to the sun. In addition to applying sunscreen, everyone should seek the shade, wear hats and sunglasses, and use umbrellas when appropriate.