How to stay safe from the sun

How to stay safe from the sun

How to stay safe from the sun

Posted on May 27, 2022

Use an umbrella or hat to shield yourself from damaging rays

When it’s time to kick off the season of fun in the sun, it’s also a good time to think about sun safety.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Most cases of skin cancer are due to overexposure to the sun without adequate protection.

We asked the experts for some recommendations on ways that you can enjoy the outdoors and protect your skin and health at the same time.

The number one piece of advice from experts is to minimize the amount of time you expose yourself to direct sunlight by staying in shade, using an umbrella or a hat.

“I recommend avoiding the sun between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when the sun is hotter,” said Dr. Laura Ferris, professor and director of clinical trials at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Dermatology.

“If you must be in the sun, wear your sun protective clothing, wear a hat. I think people sometimes forget about hats,” said Dr. Ferris. Wide-brimmed hats should be a staple when protecting yourself from the sun.

Use sunscreen

Dr. Charles Mount, division chief of Dermatology at Allegheny Health Network, recommends always using sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 30.

“Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher provides broad-spectrum protection, meaning it protects against both UVB and UVA rays,” said Dr. Mount.

UVA rays penetrate the skin which causes premature aging, while UVB rays are the cause of sunburn, penetrating the outer layer of the skin.

Sunscreen should be reapplied often, every 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the SPF value assigned. People with dark skin should not assume that they are safe from sunburn.

Treating the burn

If you burn, stay out of the sun until you are sure your skin has recovered, meaning no redness or peeling. Applying sunblock to already sunburned skin is not recommended.

“You don’t want to put sunscreen on inflamed skin,” said Dr. Ferris. “Also make sure that you stay hydrated, take a cool shower and keep on a lightweight unscented lotion.”

“Avoid alcohol to prevent dehydration,” Dr. Mount advised.

Both doctors recommend treating sunburn pain with a 1% hydrocortisone ointment or cream applied twice a day to the affected areas. An over-the-counter anti-inflammatory such as acetaminophen can be taken with your doctor’s approval.

Tanning beds

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many people believe that indoor tanning is safer than sun exposure, but that’s a myth.

“If you see a tan or burn, you are getting too much sun,” said Dr. Ferris. “We see people going to tanning beds seeking ‘a base tan.’ A base tan will not protect you. Tanning beds are linked to cancer.”

Self-tanners are a safe alternative for those looking for that summery glow, but offer no sun protection unless they include an SPF of 30 or higher.

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