Most people know extended exposure to the sun could make you more susceptible to sunburn, but many don't realize the harmful risks posed to all of us by ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. UVA rays, which penetrate much deeper into the skin than ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, can cause premature aging, melanoma and other skin cancers. As the weather continues to warm up and we spend more time outside, it’s important to remember what we can do to help protect our skin:
- Avoid the sun at “peak” hours. Your skin is more sensitive to sunlight between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. when the sun is most intense. Limit your sun exposure in this interval when the skin will be more prone to sunburn and damage.
- Use caution around reflective surfaces. When at the beach or pool, your risk of getting sunburned may increase due to the reflection of the sun's damaging rays by the water and sand.
- Use "broad spectrum" sunscreen rated at least 30 SPF prior to sun exposure. Sunscreen labeled "broad spectrum" will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply prior to sun exposure and use at least one ounce if your arms and legs are exposed. Re-apply every two hours when you’re in the sun, and every hour if you’re sweating or if you go in water.
- Protect all exposed areas. It’s important to protect all areas of the body that can be damaged by the sun. Long-sleeved shirts, pants and hats that shade the face, neck and ears can also protect the skin from sun damage. Use sunglasses with lenses that have at least 99% UV absorption to protect your eyes and surrounding skin. Apply lip balm with SPF of 30 or higher to protect your lips. Protect the scalp and hairy areas with sunscreen gels. Babies younger than six months should be kept fully covered and out of the sun.
- Understand the “sun risk” of your medications. Some medications, including some antibiotics, antifungals, blood pressure medications, anti-inflammatories and chemotherapies may increase your sensitivity to the sun’s rays. Check with your health care provider to discuss any sun risks related to your medications.
Tips provided by:
Ryanne Coulson, PA-C