How to Do an Honest Skin Assessment

Performing self checks is key to avoiding skin cancer.
Performing self checks is key to avoiding skin cancer.
Garry Wade/Getty Images

You've lived in it your entire life and you see it every single day. But how well do you actually know your skin? Whether you're a beauty product junkie or use nothing but bar soap, there are enormous benefits to understanding your body's largest organ. It can save you money by guiding your skin-care purchases, alert you to chronic or acute conditions, and even help you fight skin cancer. And that's just for starters.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you thoroughly check your birthday suit once a year, and then follow up with a board-certified dermatologist about any concerns [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation's more rigorous guidelines, it's wise to perform a head-to-toe self-examination every month, checking for marks that might be cancerous or precancerous [source: Skin Cancer Foundation].

So should you aim for monthly or yearly skin assessments, or perhaps something in between? Ultimately, it's your call, but you'll want to conduct more frequent checks if you or someone in your family has had skin cancer or a precancerous lesion, or if you simply get a lot of sun exposure. For help with timing your self-exams, make an appointment with a dermatologist and see what they suggest. Then read on for more about the process.