Six Steps for Keeping Your Skin Healthy at Sea

8 February 2011 By Jason A. Shapiro

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air…” said famous American Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson in the early 1800s. If he were living today, there’s a good chance he would be singing a different tune if he understood the dangers of daily sun exposure.

As a board-certified internal medicine doctor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I see a lot of patients with significant sun damage and accelerated signs of aging due to daily sun exposure. The majority of these patients are people living and working on yachts. Despite the fun and adventure that comes with the job, being a yachtie can be hazardous to your health. Without the proper precautions, sun exposure will dramatically increase your risk for accelerated skin aging and skin cancer, which can be fatal.

Sun exposure is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, specifically UVA and UVB. UVA exposure accelerates the skin’s aging and wrinkling processes, while UVB exposure is linked directly to sunburns and skin cancer – the most dangerous type of which is Melanoma. This may be associated with severe UVB sunburns occurring before the age of 20.

Although anyone can get skin cancer, fair-skinned people who freckle easily have the greatest risk, including yacht crew of Anglo-Saxon heritage with lighter skin tones. Not only are these crewmembers more at increased risk due of their skin type, but also because crew work in locations with the highest UV exposures in the world, such as Florida, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Keep up to date on daily UV exposure forecasts at:

One key to preventing or treating skin cancer, like other cancers, is early detection. Almost all skin cancers are curable if they’re found before they’ve spread. If you don’t have easy access to a dermatologist, consider a visit to a general practitioner for a simple biopsy and, if needed, a referral to a dermatologist. Although most types of skin cancer are found on sun-exposed skin (head, face, neck, hands and arms), skin cancer can occur anywhere. It’s important to check the entire body for suspicious-looking moles or marks that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, have changed color or are large in diameter. The most common warning sign may be a change in skin appearance; a new growth or a non-healing sore are telling. It’s extremely important to see a doctor at first sign of inconsistency and not wait until there is pain, as it is rarely a symptom.

Protect yourself from the dangers of sun exposure by following these six simple steps:

1. Avoid midday, direct sun exposure. The sun’s UV radiation typically is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

2. Invest in a high quality, water-resistant sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Cover all sun-exposed parts of your body.

3. Wear clothing that protects you from direct sun exposure when outside, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, large-brimmed hats and don’t forget sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.

4. Avoid tanning salons as they emit UV radiation that puts you at risk for skin cancer.

5. Be aware of the side effects of the medications you take as they may contribute to increased sun sensitivity. Basic over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen, some common antibiotics and blood pressure medications can cause amplified sensitivity.

6. Get to know your skin. Constant skin surveillance and prompt action is your best protection.

Dr. Shapiro is offering a complimentary Anti-Aging SkinMedica™ Facial with facial expert, Medical Aesthetician Marlene Bracero to the first 20 readers who email him. Send an email with the subject: Dockwalk  to

Jason A. Shapiro, MD is the medical director of Tribeca Medaesthetics, a medical practice providing state-of-the-art, cosmetic surgical and non-surgical care, as well as concierge internal medicine from board-certified doctors with a focus on patient education and patient satisfaction. To learn more about Dr. Shapiro’s community involvement with his medical practice, please visit Tribeca Medaesthetics is located in East Fort Lauderdale, Florida, across the street from Broward General Medical Center at 1425 S. Andrews Avenue. Telephone: 954-760-4370; email:; website: