Summer is right around the corner, and with the changing season comes beach days, barbecues, swimming pools, flip-flops and lots of time in the sun!
Being outside enjoying the warm weather is one of the best parts of this season. But if you don't protect your skin from the sun, you may end up getting burned and feeling miserable while everyone else is having fun. In addition to any immediate discomfort a sunburn causes, overexposure to the sun can cause irreversible skin damage, including leathery skin, dark spots and wrinkles. It also increases your chances of developing skin cancer, which is the most common cancer worldwide, according to the American Cancer Society. In fact, an estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
So how do you prevent sunburn, reduce skin damage and avoid skin cancer? Here are some tips for protecting your skin this summer and all year round:
- Wear sunscreen. The ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun are what damage skin. Whether it is sunny or cloudy outside, it's important to protect your skin from UV rays every day of the year. One way to do this is by wearing sunscreen. Make sure the label says "broad spectrum," which means it helps protect against both UVA and UVB rays. And stick to an SPF of 30 or higher for maximum protection. Apply sunscreen liberally and reapply after you've been swimming or if you've been sweating.
- Wear a hat. Wearing a hat with at least a 2-inch or 3-inch brim keeps the sun off your face and it shades your eyes, too. Also consider covering the rest of your body with protective clothing. This type of clothing provides consistent coverage and won't wear off like sunscreen eventually will.
- Wear sunglasses. Ward off the sun's glare all year long to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them by wearing sunglasses. Invest in the good kind that block UV rays. Sunglasses with oversized frames are best at protecting the skin around the eyes.
- Don't sunbathe. Deliberately exposing yourself to the sun for an extended period of time is never a good idea, even if you're wearing sunscreen. You'll be much happier (and cooler) if you stay in the shade, under a tree or beach umbrella. Keep in mind, though, that some of the sun's UV rays still get through even when you're in the shade, so don't skip the sunscreen.
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That's when the sun's rays are the strongest. Even if you're just walking the dog or running errands, try to stay out of the sun during these peak hours as much as possible.
- Skip the tanning bed and sun lamp. Some think a "bronze glow" is desirable, but it's just not worth the risk. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, just one indoor tanning bed session in your lifetime can increase your chance of developing skin cancer by a whopping 20%. If that sun-kissed glow is really important to you, use a self-tanning body lotion.
- Protect against other types of burns, too. It's not just the sun that can damage your skin. You should also take steps to protect yourself from accidental burns, too. If your car is parked in a sunny spot, cover the car seat and steering wheel so they stay cooler to the touch. Wear flip-flops when crossing the hot sand at the beach or when walking around the pool's edge. Stay away from hot BBQ grills and use sturdy oven mitts to open the grill and while flipping the food.
- Check your skin often. Perform self-exams every month or so. If you notice new spots, changes to existing spots or anything else that looks suspicious, tell your doctor. You should also see a dermatologist yearly for a full skin exam.
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Date Last Reviewed: March 12, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor