How to Safely Have Fun in the Sun
The best part of summer is enjoying outdoor activities like swimming, picnics and gardening. But while you’re having fun in the sun, it’s very important to remember to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. After all, skin is your body’s largest organ.
Most skin cancer can be prevented.
It’s estimated that approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable, but can be complicated and inconvenient to treat, especially if not treated early. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths.
The good news is it’s easy to protect you and your family from skin cancer. If you’re using sunscreen, you’re off to a great start! I recommend a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. But it’s also important to make sure you’re using it properly. Before you apply, be sure to check the label. Most sunscreens are marked with an expiration date. After this time, the sunscreen won’t be as effective. It’s best to apply a thick layer of sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure so the SPF has time to bind to the skin. Then it’s essential to reapply every two hours. Reapply frequently if you’ve been swimming or sweating.
I also advise my patients to take the following steps:
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours. The sun’s rays are strongest from 10 am to 2 pm.
- Be extra careful around surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays, like sand, water, snow, and concrete.
- Wear protective clothing like a light-weight, long sleeve shirt or pants, a wide brim hat and sunglasses when possible. If that’s not practical, try wearing a T-shirt or a beach cover-up.
Sunscreen should be used every day.
Sunscreen should be used every day—even when it’s cloudy outside—since every time the sun’s rays hit your skin, they cause damage like dark spots, wrinkles and lack of firmness. The more you protect yourself from the sun, the more beautiful and healthy your skin will be. Again, I recommend a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to help protect against premature aging.
Avoid tanning beds.
Many people use indoor tanning equipment, like tanning beds, to get a “base tan.” They believe this will prevent sunburn. The fact of the matter is a “base tan” is actually a sign of skin damage. Additionally, the amount of radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to that of the sun, and in some cases might be stronger.
Have fun enjoying the many opportunities to be active outside this summer. Just remember to protect your skin!
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Provided By: Alexis Armour, MD, Board-certified Plastic Surgeon specializing in plastic and reconstructive procedures