7 Sun Safety Tips for Healthy Skin

May 21, 2018

With summer right around the corner, you’re probably anxious to enjoy the warmer weather and spend time at the pool, beach or amusement park. But it only takes one painful sunburn to ruin a day of fun and increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), skin cancer affects about 1 out of 5 Americans at some point in their lifetime and is the most common cancer in the United States. And, the AAD estimates that 95 percent of melanoma cases can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Before you head outdoors for some fun in the sun, here are seven sun safety tips that can help you avoid skin damage:

1. Use sunscreen.

You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher and apply it generously to all exposed skin — and don’t forget SPF 15 lip balm and facial moisturizer, too. You should be sure to check the expiration date on any sunscreen that is left over from last summer to make sure it is still good. Using expired sunscreen could reduce the sunscreen’s effectiveness and make you more likely to get a sunburn.

2. Don’t forget to reapply.

Most people are aware that sunscreen wears off. However, when you’re having fun, it can be tough to remember to stop and reapply. You should put on more sunscreen every two hours, and reapply after toweling off, swimming or sweating.

3. Cover up.

Clothing can help to protect your skin from UV rays. However, an average T-shirt has an SPF rating of less than 15, so you still might want to consider sunscreen if you will be outdoors for an extended period of time. For the best protection, wear clothing made from tightly woven fabrics in darker colors. Dry T-shirts also provide more UV protection than wet T-shirts. You might also want to consider purchasing clothing that has an ultraviolet protection factor rating.

4. Protect your head, ears, neck and face.

Hats are the best way to protect your head, ears, neck and face from the sun. Make sure to choose a hat with a wide brim that goes all the way around and is free of holes that may let in sunlight. Just like with clothing, tightly woven fabrics in darker colors are best. Although baseball caps may provide shade for your face and head, you will need to use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on your neck and ears.

5. Seek shade.

When you set up camp at the beach, pool or park, it’s best to choose a shady spot. Sitting under an umbrella, tree or pavilion can give you a break from the sun’s rays — especially during the hottest part of the day.

6. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If possible, you should limit your time outdoors during these hours. If you must be outside, take frequent breaks in the shade and remember to reapply sunscreen regularly.

7. Know the signs of skin cancer.

When skin cancer is detected early, it is usually very treatable. And, skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of your risk factors or skin color. That’s why you should be sure to do a self-examination to check your skin for signs of skin cancer every month. The AAD’s system, called the ABCDEs, makes skin cancer signs easier to remember. ABCDE stands for:

  • A – Asymmetry. Is one half of your mole or pigmented spot different than the other?
  • B – Border. Is the border scalloped, irregular or poorly defined?
  • C – Color. Is the color varied? Does it have different shades of tan, brown, black, white, red or blue?
  • D – Diameter. Is it larger than the size of a pencil eraser? Or, is it smaller and showing other symptoms of skin cancer?
  • E – Evolving. Is the mole or lesion changing size, shape or color? Does it itch or bleed?

If you notice any worrisome skin changes, you should talk to your primary care provider or dermatologist right away. Even if you have not noticed any skin changes during your self-exams and are not at high risk of developing skin cancer, it is a good idea to ask your primary care provider to do a head-to-toe skin check during your annual physical.

If you are concerned about any skin changes — or if you need a routine skin check — the nurse practitioners (NPs) at The Nurse’s Office can help. To find out more, visit www.thenursesoffice.com, call (860) 603-3541 or walk in for immediate care.

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