Heading outdoors? Remember your sunscreen

. Posted in News

By Megan Lichter, Nurse Practitioner, Dermatology

After a cold and rainy spring, there’s nothing like a warm summer day to lift our spirits.

But while spending time outdoors is great for mind and spirit, the rays of the sun can wreak havoc on your skin. The CDC reports that 70,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year, and many patients are surprised to learn that a “healthy” tan is really your body’s reaction to the sun’s damage. Unfortunately, there is no safe tan.

Fortunately, a few simple steps can help protect you and your family while you enjoy the fresh air and warm weather:

Lather up
Sunscreen is one of your best allies in the battle against sun damage. Whether you prefer a zinc-based sunscreen or other types, look for a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. We recommend you choose an SPF 30 or higher. And remember to apply it to your face, ears, and neck. These areas are often forgotten, until you come home with a burn.

Do it again
Reapply your sunscreen every 90 minutes or so, especially if you have light skin, and after exercise or swimming. Be extra diligent if you spend time on the water or sand, as these surfaces reflect light, so you’re more likely to burn quickly.

Top it off
Hats are great at keeping the sun out of your eyes and the rays off your head. Your scalp can burn, too, particularly if you have thinning hair.

Don’t let clouds fool you
You can also burn on a cloudy day, so apply sunscreen as you would for a sunny day.

Be a clock watcher
The sun’s rays are strongest at mid-day, so if you have exercise or yard work on your agenda, plan to do it before 10am or after 3pm.

Skip the tanning booth
Many people incorrectly believe that a tanning booth provides a safe base tan. Unfortunately, the World Health Organization classifies UV rays from tanning booths as cancer-causing — just like rays from the sun. Tanning booths are being blamed for an increase in melanoma, especially in young women.

Protecting your skin is a year-round job. While winter months lack the summer’s warmth, you can still burn, especially when skiing or playing in light-reflecting snow.