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Remembering Sun Safety During Quarantine

Haley Kurisky
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Haley Kurisky, Holly Kurisky,

Haley Kurisky (pictured, on right, with her sister Holly) stands in front of a mural on the side of Carnegie Vanguard High School, taken on one of their recent “quarantine walks.” On every walk, Haley makes sure to wear a hat, sunglasses and tons of sunscreen.

Hello, May! And hello, Yearly Sun Safety Reminder! May is Melanoma Awareness Month, and for good reason, especially here in sunny Houston. Although we as Houstonians have already experienced basically all four seasons already this year, “hot” seems to be a recurring theme. The silver lining that has appeared for me during quarantine is the ability to get outside more. I have been going on walks and sitting outside every day, and from the crowdedness I’ve experienced on my walks, it seems like everyone else is too. Plus, now that the beaches are open, thousands of people are flocking to Galveston every weekend to spend all day in the sun. 

Nature and sunlight are great for boosting serotonin and connecting with others, especially in dismal times. What I implore everyone to remember, though, is that your skin is not used to all this outside time, especially if you’re going on walks in the middle of the day (the heat of the day) when you might normally be at work or school. If you’re walking on shiny asphalt or close to the bayou, where light reflects, take this into consideration. Even on cloudy Houston days, you can get burned. 

Every year since I started writing for The Buzz, I have shared my thoughts on sun safety and skin cancer awareness, so this year is no exception. In addition to my admonitions and reminders, as always, I have included some updates to adapt your usual sun safety program to quarantine. Save yourself the guilt, wrinkles, and costly mole removal procedures by treating your skin well now. 

Conduct a Self-Exam
I know many people are reticent to go to the doctor’s office with corona still lurking, so if you can’t go in for a skin check, conduct your own at home! Dermatologists recommend checking your skin yourself at least once a month. It’s fairly easy to do, and only takes a few minutes. Take a look at your skin and keep an eye out for anything that looks abnormal. That freckle you’ve had on your index finger - has it grown recently? Gotten any darker? Did you even notice that new mole on your ankle? Sometimes it takes another perspective, too. I am not afraid to tell my friends that they may want to start watching that freckle I saw on their neck. Does it sound creepy? Maybe. But it can be so easy to get “comfortable” in your own skin; you may not notice something new or something abnormal like a new set of eyes would. 

Protect yourself from Technology Burn
Even if you’re inside working virtually, sunscreen is a must. Although it may sound a bit bogus, light from your computer can affect the skin on your face and even cause wrinkles. I’m not saying you have to slather on SPF 100 all over your body the second you wake up… but adding a sunscreen moisturizer to your morning skincare regimen isn’t such a bad idea, even if you’re sticking to virtual sunlight. 

Invest in Trendy Fashion
Please wear a hat when you go walk or run. Hats are always in! Better yet, rock an Astros baseball cap. There is no better way to wear a hat, truly. Also, since we are all wearing masks now, you don’t want a mask tan! Wearing a hat can avoid mask burn on the lower half of your face. 

Remember the Odd Spots
Don’t forget the “forgettable” spots. When putting on sunscreen, we all seem to cover the major areas - face, arms, legs, chest. But those aren’t usually the spots that end up getting burned.. Pause when reapplying to think about those areas you missed: The back of your neck, the backs of your knees, your ears, your eyes (thank you, polarized sunglasses), and your hands. 

Plan the Timing of Daily Walks
Try to synch up your daily walk or outdoors time with a time where UV rays are less strong. Although the sun is always out, and you can get burned whenever (even when it’s cloudy!), it’s probably not the best idea to schedule your daily run between the hours of 10 and 4, which are some of the hottest and sunniest hours of the day. Try to squeeze in an early morning walk while it’s still shady out or wait until the end of the day around dusk to go out. A lot of quarantine-ers still working from home tend to be going out around lunchtime and 5, so plan around the crowds and around the sun. 

I hope everyone is staying safe and well during this time. Having lost my grandfather to cancer that stemmed from melanoma just last spring, this topic is especially important to me and others close to me. Enjoy the perks of social distancing, but remember to keep others safe by continuing to quarantine, and keep yourself safe by avoiding excess sun. 

Editor's note: Read Haley's past skin safety stories here and here

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