Summer is a fun and eventful season. Whether you are working in the yard or golfing, watching your child’s sporting events, or relaxing by the pool – the sun is affecting your skin. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. To protect yourself and your family, follow these recommendations:
1. Always use sunscreen. Even on partly cloudy or days with cooler temps, you need sunscreen. Apply a thick layer of sunscreen with at least SPF 15 on all parts of exposed skin before going outside. Have a family member or friend help cover those hard-to-reach areas like your back and shoulders. And don’t forget the smaller areas, like the ears and feet if you are wearing sandals.
Sunscreens contain chemicals that protect skin from UV rays. They work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. The SPF number (Sun Protection Factor) is the effective rate at which they block UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection.
All sunscreens do not contain the same ingredients, so if you have a bad reaction to one, try a different product or call your doctor for recommendations on alternatives.
Sunscreen does wear off. It is important to reapply if you are in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Also, did you know that sunscreen expires? So before applying sunscreen from the bathroom cupboard, make sure the product has not expired. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Finally, some makeup products and lip balms do contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. However, if they do not advertise an SPF level of at least 15, you will need more protection.
2. Don’t forget to protect your eyes. Our sight needs protection from the sun too. Wearing sunglasses is the best way to protect our sight from harmful UV rays. This reduces the risk of cataracts and shields the tender skin around our eyes as well. Most sunglasses sold in stores block both UVA and UVB rays, which is the best protection. Wrap-around sunglasses are even better because they block UV rays from sneaking in through the sides.
3. Cover up. Although it is not a replacement for sunscreen, covering your skin with clothing can help protect against UV rays when needed. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts that have darker colors can help. However, a typical t-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use clothing in addition to sunscreen. Clothing made from tightly woven fabric offers better protection. Be especially mindful near the water, as a wet t-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one.
4. Cover your head, too. A brimmed hat is a great way to shade your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Again, hats made of tightly woven fabrics work the best. Avoid hats made from straw as they may have holes that let through UV rays. Baseball caps are great too, but be sure to wear sunscreen on your neck and ears to help shield those areas.
5. When in doubt, find some shade. Even if you have sunscreen on, the body sometimes needs a break from the sun. Simply finding some shade under a tree or umbrella is an easy solution when searching for relief. In addition to reducing the risk of skin damage and skin cancer, shade can also help to cool the body down in hot temperatures.
If you have questions on sunscreen products, need more information on what might be best for your skin type, or have concerns about any spots on your skin, please contact our Department of Dermatology by calling 563-584-4425.