Many people enjoy being outside. It’s fun to go to the park, work in the yard, or exercise outside. While those are all good things, make sure you keep your skin sun safe while you’re outside.
Path to improved health
The sun sends invisible UV rays to Earth. These rays can cause damage to your skin if you don’t protect against them. The safest way to protect yourself from sun damage is to stay out of the sun. If possible, stay inside during the peak sun hours (from late morning until late afternoon). If you need to be outside, though, here are some tips for both adults and children on how to stay sun safe.
Look for shade
Stay in the shade while outside. Set up your picnic under a tree or in a shelter. Relax on the beach under a large umbrella.
Put on sunscreen
Sunscreen contains ingredients that protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays. It comes in lotion or spray-on forms. Sunscreen is rated by its sun protection factor (SPF). The higher the SPF number, the greater protection from sunburn the sunscreen has. And the longer it will last after application.
If you have sunscreen at home, check the expiration date before you use it. Don’t use it if it’s expired. Replace all sunscreen after 3 years.
When purchasing sunscreen, look for one that:
- Offers an SPF of 15 or more.
- Is marked as broad spectrum. This will protect you from UVA and UVB rays from the sun. Most sunscreens are broad spectrum.
- Is water resistant if you will be in the water or sweating a lot.
Always apply sunscreen before going outside. Apply it at least 15 minutes before being in the sun. Use it to cover all exposed skin. Ask a friend or family member to help you apply it to hard-to-reach places, such as your back.
You even need sunscreen on cool, cloudy days because the sun’s UV rays go through clouds. You need it during the winter, too, since snow can reflect the sun’s rays back on to you.
Some skin products—such as moisturizers and lotions—contain sunscreen. Using these products is an easy way to make sure you’re wearing sunscreen. Just make sure the sunscreen is at least SPF 15.
Once you’re in the sun, reapply sunscreen every two hours or each time you get out of the water. This even applies to sunscreen that’s water resistant.
Wear the right kind of clothes
Wear a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, long pants, or a long skirt. Look for clothes made from polyester or denim; they block the sun’s rays. Also choose clothes in dark or bright colors as the rays will reflect off them.
If you’re planning to be in and out of the water, take a dry shirt to put on afterward. Wet clothing doesn’t protect you from the sun.
Put a lid on it
A hat can protect your head and face from the sun. Hats with a wide brim that reach all the way around your head are best. The brim will protect your face, neck, and ears. Hats made from a heavy material, such as canvas, are a good choice. Avoid lightweight hats because the rays can go through them. If you wear a baseball cap, apply sunscreen to your face, all around your neck, and to the top and back of your ears.
Protect your eyes
Sunglasses help you see better when in the sun. They also help protect your eyes from developing cataracts. When buying new sunglasses, make sure they block the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Most sunglasses sold in the United States meet this standard.
Keep children safe
Very young children (less than 6 months old) should not be in the sun. Their skin hasn’t matured and needs extra protection. If they are outside, they should be in the shade. They need to wear a hat. They also need to wear clothing that will protect them from the sun’s rays.
Things to consider
- Too much time in the sun can cause many issues. One of the most common is sunburn. Others include spots and wrinkles in areas that have been burned, changes in the texture of your skin, trouble with your eyes, even skin cancer.
- Every year, almost 5 million people in the United States are treated for skin cancer. Many of these cancers can be prevented by keeping your skin sun safe. Follow the tips listed above.
- Without protection, your skin can get sun damage in just 15 minutes. However, it can take up to 12 hours for the damage to appear. For that reason, keep track of how long you’re in the sun. Reapply sunscreen or go inside if you’ve been outside a long time.
- Some areas reflect the sun more than others. These include beaches, pools, lakes, oceans, concrete surfaces, and even snow. If you’re in these areas, you’re more likely to get sun damage if you don’t take precautions.
Questions to ask your doctor
- What’s the difference between spray-on sunscreen and lotion sunscreen? Is one better than the other?
- Which SPF is best for me? For my children?
- Is this spot on my skin due to sun exposure?
- How should I treat a sunburn?
- Do any medicines I take make it dangerous for me to be in the sun?
- What are the signs of skin cancer?
Copyright © American Academy of Family Physicians
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.