School’s out, and summer is here! That means spending time outside with friends and family enjoying bar-b-ques, boating, beaches, and more. But all that time enjoying the great outdoors also means increased exposure to the sun, which can ultimately cause damage to your skin. That’s why it’s critical to understand the importance of using sunscreen.
As you know, when unprotected skin gets sun, people tend to get tan or burn, but did you ever stop to wonder why?
Your skin has melanin, which gives it its color. Melanin also protects the deeper layers of your skin from damage, and when the sun damages your skin, it makes even more melanin. This causes the skin to change color.
People with darker skin typically turn darker or tan with increased exposure to the sun, while those with lighter skin usually turn redder or burn in the sun.
Regardless of whether you tan or burn, the sun is still damaging your skin, so you should always wear sunscreen.
Sure, applying sunscreen can be a gooey inconvenience, but it’s an important step to help prevent your skin from prematurely aging and wrinkling, as well as to prevent skin cancer. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however, so here is what you should know:
Full Spectrum Protection – You want broad-spectrum protection from both UVB and UVA rays. In the past, most sunscreen labels featured protection from UVB rays which cause sunburn but made no mention of protection from UVA rays. Now that we understand UVA rays cause premature aging of your skin, you want a sunscreen that provides protection from both. Look at the sunscreen’s label carefully and make sure it mentions the full spectrum protection it provides.
SPF – These three letters are associated with all sunscreen products, but what do they mean? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is followed by a number on the label. That number indicates how long it would take your skin to burn from the sun’s UVB rays with sunscreen compared to how long it would take without it. For example, if you use an SPF 30 sunscreen properly, it will take your skin 30 times as long to burn than if you used no sunscreen.
What number is best for you depends on your situation, but if you spend a lot of time outside, we recommend an SPF of at least 30 and a sunscreen that is sweat and water-resistant. Apply 30 minutes before going outdoors – even on cloudy days – and reapply after swimming or every two hours.
Other factors to consider
If you’re wondering who should wear sunscreen, the answer is everyone other than babies under six months old. Apply it to every area that is or will be exposed to the sun, and don’t forget those often-forgotten places like your lips, ears, feet, and behind the knees. Consider wearing a hat, too, to protect your scalp. And remember, it’s always a good idea to seek shade whenever possible to give your skin a break from the sun.
Keep track of your skin. If you develop a new spot because of being in the sun, or if an existing spot changes in color, shape or size, please see your provider. With offices in Hudson and Baldwin, you can call to make an in-person or virtual appointment with a provider at either location.
Enjoy the sunshine, wear your sunscreen, and have a great summer!