Self-Skin Exams: What They Are and Why They’re Important
We all look at ourselves in the mirror every day, but very rarely do we actually see what’s there. Typically, we’ll hone in on a few blemishes on our face like age spots or acne and put the most effort into addressing them. However, we have skin on our entire bodies, and while the face is where most issues can occur, we need to pay attention to other areas as well. Otherwise, we risk missing crucial warning signs that something could be wrong. Learn what self-skin exams are and why they’re important to maintaining your complexion as well as your overall health.
The Purpose of Self-Skin Exams
A self-skin exam is the process of looking over our bodies for any new blemishes, or for changes in older ones. This can help indicate whether certain sections of skin damage are getting worse and need to be examined by a professional. Even slight changes in the look and feel of your skin can be a sign of major health issues. Therefore, it’s important that you’re paying close attention so that you can catch issues before they become full-fledged health problems. Self-skin exams are especially key for noticing the beginning stages of skin cancer, as they’ll make it easier to tell the difference between normal and threatening blemishes.
Since skin cancer can develop with little warning, the only way to truly tell if you’re at risk is to examine the skin itself and diagnose yourself early on. This means regularly taking the time to check on old moles, growths, and rough patches to best identify how they change over time. But this isn’t all the benefits that these inspections can bring for you. In fact, many enjoy performing them simply because it offers a better understanding of the state of their skin as a whole.
How To Perform an Exam
Now that you know the basics of what self-skin exams are and why they’re important for your health, it’s time to learn how to conduct one. Though it might sound like an arduous process that’s easy to put off, it’s important to know how healthy your skin looks and whether there’s something that warrants your concern. So, in knowing how to do this, you’re developing a skill that will be useful to you throughout the remainder of your life. These are the core steps to a self-exam:
Position Yourself in the Mirror
To begin, you’ll want to place yourself in front of a large mirror just after getting out of the shower or bath. It’s recommended that you use either a wide bathroom model or one that’s full-body length to get a proper view of your entire figure. It’s also recommended that you keep a few hand mirrors nearby to help you see harder-to-reach areas like your back and neck.
Become Familiar With Your Skin
Next, take some time getting to know the overall look and feel of your skin—where moles are, the locations of freckle clusters, and which places feel drier than others. During this time, take note of any birthmarks you might have and familiarize yourself with their typical appearance as well.
After performing a preliminary exam in the places you can easily see, take some time to address the spots that require a bit more effort. Along the backs of your arms, across your shoulders and back, and even the backs of your thighs all need to be looked at to ensure there’s nothing of concern. Use the hand mirror mentioned previously to find the right observation angle. Make sure that you’re inspecting your hands and feet for anything you might normally miss as well.
Repeat the Process Often
For self-skin exams to be effective at finding problems, they need to be conducted often enough for you to recognize a difference. While this doesn’t have to be every week, it’s recommended that you repeat this process at least once a month. If changes are happening to your skin, this period of time is long enough for them to occur.
What To Look For
But there’s more to it than simply knowing where to look. You also need to know what to specifically look for. These are the features to observe when looking at suspicious blemishes and when to make a doctor’s appointment.
When you develop a benign freckle or dark spot, it will often be symmetrical—either circular or oval in shape. But melanomas are typically asymmetrical and look live uneven splotches. This is the biggest telltale sign that you’re dealing with something potentially dangerous.
Melanomas can also develop borders around them that are raised and rough to the touch. Depending on the shape of the blemish, they may appear to have notched edges as well. On the other hand, moles are smoother and aren’t patchy.
Make sure you take note of the color of the blemish as well. Harmless moles are uniform in color. Even freckles that can darken over time remain the same shade throughout. But melanomas can be a series of different colors at the same time—ranging from brown to tan to black. A melanoma can even turn additional colors like red or white as it grows larger.
Speaking of size, it’s vital that you take that feature into account as well. Size will indicate how quickly the lesion is growing and whether it’s something that’s likely to become worse. Typically, if the blemish is larger than a pencil eraser, or about six millimeters in diameter, you should get it looked at right away.
Evolution Over Time
Lastly, search for any evolution in the mark over time. This could be anything from the mark getting darker to steadily developing a scaly texture. Scars won’t change this fast—so if you do notice any differences from the month prior, it’s something you should monitor carefully.
At Flawless Beauty and Skin, we understand the importance of keeping yourself informed when it comes to your overall skin health. That’s why we seek to not only provide you with products that help nourish your complexion, but to also give you the knowledge of how to look after your skin’s well-being. Check out our beauty and skincare products online for more information about what we offer, and reach out to the American Cancer Society with additional self-exam questions.