Living in the midwest, summer has always been one of my favorite seasons. It means that I can finally spend time outside, going for walks and swimming at the pool. I have always enjoyed watching my skin get a summer glow from the sun, but what are the risks to getting this nice tan? Ultraviolet rays (UV rays) from the sun pass through your skin and damage your skin cells. Sunburns and suntans are the result of damaging your skin cells. Luckily, the top layer of skin constantly sheds and rebuilds, so some skin exposure is fine, but too much can lead to eye problems, wrinkles, and skin cancer (the most common type of cancer).
Follow these tips to ensure you do not get too much sun exposure:
- Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher between 10am-4pm when the sun's rays are the most intense.
- Apply sunscreen 20 minutes prior to sun exposure, and reapply every two hours, or more often, if exposed to water, or if you are perspiring heavily.
- Avoid prolonged time in the sun, and choose spots in the shade.
- Wear sunglasses and protective clothing, like wide brimmed hats.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Check your sunscreen to make sure it has not expired. Expired sun screen is not as effective, so if there is no expiration date, throw away after two years.
- Drink lots of water if you are spending time in the sun.
- To protect against UVA rays, look for sunscreens that contain: Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone.
- Children under five years of age should not use sunscreens that contain alcohol.
Check your skin regularly for changes in the size, shape, color, or feel of birthmarks, moles, and spots. These changes could be a sign of skin cancer. It is always a good idea to discuss any changes with your Primary Care Physician.
I hope everyone has a fun and safe summer!