Dr. Stephan Finical’s interest in helping others learn to protect their skin from the sun is personal and professional. As a surgeon with Charlotte Plastic Surgery, he reminds his patients that wearing sunscreen, even in the winter, is key to decreasing their risk of skin cancer and premature signs of aging. But what makes him so passionate about the topic is that he’s a son who watched both his parents battle skin cancer.

“It really hits home when your parents start having those kinds of issues,” he said. “We had a boat when i was growing up and we got too much recreational sun. It was the 1960s and tanning was in, but it was creating sun damage.”

To defend your skin, he recommends having two sunscreens on hand. Splurge on a quality product for the areas that get the most sun (face, neck, chest and hands). He likes SkinMedica Total Defense + Repair (available at charlotteplasticsurgery or For the rest of your body, save money by using a lower-priced lotion with an SPF of 15 or higher that has a smell and texture that you love - that increases the odds you’ll use it.  Just make sure it’s waterproof if you’re going to be swimming or sweating.

“What I love about the SkinMedica sunscreen line is that it’s the only one that protects against ultraviolet and infrared rays,” said Dr. Finical. “Infrared rays are the heat you feel from the sun. The old thinking was that we just need to protect ourselves from ultraviolet rays, but now we realize that’s wrong. “

It turns out ultraviolet energies account for only seven percent of the sun’s energies that reach Earth; infrared energy accounts for more than 50 percent.

Here are more of Dr. Finical’s sun protection tips, including one every grandparent should read:

Timing is everything: “Make putting on sunscreen part of your daily routine, but don’t wait to do it right before you go outside. Most take at least 20 minutes to work. If you’re going to be in a bathing suit, put on your sunscreen before your suit so you’ll be fully protected.”

Our biggest mistake: “We don’t reapply sunscreen often enough. Most sunscreens lose effectiveness after 80 minutes. You have to keep reapplying if you’re out in the sun.”

No excuses: “Even though the sun is not as intense in winter, you’re still at risk of getting a sunburn. And if you’re out skiing, remember that light bounces off the snow and reflects back on to you, so make sure you use plenty of sunscreen underneath your chin and nose.”

Booth of Truth: That’s the nickname for VISIA, a new machine at Charlotte Plastic Surgery that uses UV Photography to take three pictures of a patient’s face and then gives a sun damage assessment and analysis (consultations are free). “It’s a great educational tool. It opens your eyes to sun damage and pigment problems. It’s a testimonial to how much sun damage we have. And it provides a baseline so when we recommend ways to clean up any problems and protect you going forward, we having something to compare the results to so you can see the improvement. It’s a great tool from that standpoint.”

Protecting the next generation: “When the grandkids come over, make sure you have sunscreen for them. If they’re dropped off at your house, they may not think to bring any with them. Small children usually like sunscreen that comes in a stick. Keep all your sunscreen conveniently located — in your golf bag, glove compartment, boat.”