November Is National Healthy Skin Month
November may seem like a peculiar time to be thinking about your skin — after all, it’s the time of year (especially in New England) when people begin covering up in multiple layers of warm clothing. But November is National Healthy Skin Month, and before you start bundling up, it’s a good idea to think about protecting your hands, face, and any other exposed areas.
Unfortunately, many college students don’t consider skin care a health-care priority. Most young people aren’t concerned about the long-term effects of poor skin care. “It’s not something people think about when they’re young,” says Andrew Joseph (CAS’08), “because many of the negative effects of improper skin care aren’t revealed until you’re older.”
David McBride, the director of Boston University’s Student Health Services, agrees. “I would say that students, in general, only consider the cosmetic or appearance elements of skin care,” he says. “In general, students are not concerned about the long-term effects of photodamage.” Among these effects, the most serious is skin cancer.
McBride recommends that everyone — regardless of skin color or ethnic background — use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or greater, with UVA and UVB protection, both winter and summer. The sun still shines during the winter months, and when there’s snow on the ground, the reflection of the sun’s rays can increase a person’s exposure up to 85 percent.
Other cancer-prevention tips, especially in summer, include limiting exposure to sun during peak sunlight hours, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wearing sun-protective clothing such as hats and long sleeves, and staying under an umbrella when outdoors. “It isn’t much fun,” says McBride, “but to avoid photodamage, that’s what we need to do.”
Preventing dryness is also important to having healthy skin, especially at this time of year. Lower humidity and outdoor temperatures, as well as forced-air heating systems, cause skin to dry out quickly. Using a mild soap that won’t dry out skin and applying a moisturizer regularly are two easy ways to keep your skin feeling good year-round.
Student Health Services offers several skin-care services to students, including sunscreen recommendations, examinations of new or suspicious marks or lesions, and acne care. McBride says that by the time students are in college, they’ve probably experienced a lot of sun damage already, but reducing further exposure is still important to staying safe.
“Much of the sun damage happens when we are children — we can only hope that our parents used sunscreen on us and kept us out of the sun,” he says. “That said, limiting sun exposure is a way to prevent further damage to the skin.”
Brian Sirman, a campus residence hall director, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.