Important Sun Safety - Tips for your outdoor summer fun

“Wear your sunscreen!”-- it’s a phrase we hear often during the spring and summer months, and there are plenty of reasons why you should listen to the advice.

Getting several severe sunburns on your skin in your lifetime, especially when you were a child, can put you at a greater risk for skin cancer. Particularly if you have fair skin and blue eyes. 

The good news is, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself, and your family, from the sun this summer – and still enjoy your time outdoors. 

Sunscreen

To start, sunscreen is widely available and comes in different levels of protection. It’s normally a lotion, spray or stick that you apply to your skin in order to prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays from harming your skin. There are two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB. Both are very damaging to the skin so it is important to choose a sunscreen that is considered “broad-spectrum” – this means it will protect you from both UVA and UVB.

Any bottle of sunscreen you pick up will have a SPF number listed front and center. So what does that number actually mean? SPF – or Sun Protection Factor – is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here's how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer – about five hours. Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB.

It is also important to note that, If you can, apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you go outside. Also, If you go swimming and then towel off, make sure to reapply it.

Clothing

You can also opt to wear clothing that covers your body or face to shield it from the sun. According to Skincancer.org, clothing is our first line of defense against the sun’s harmful UV rays and protects us by absorbing or blocking much of this radiation. The more skin you cover, the better. A long-sleeved shirt covers more skin than a t-shirt, especially if it has a high neckline or collar that shields the back of the neck. Likewise, long pants protect more skin than shorts.

To protect your face, wear a large brimmed hat (3-inch or greater) that also shields your scalp and ears. And don’t forget your eyes. When you are outside, or even driving in your car on a sunny day, it is so important that you wear sunglasses to help protect your eyes. Most sunglasses should block about 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB light.

Skin Cancer – what to look for

Now that you are aware of some simple ways to protect yourself from the sun, it is also important to be aware of the signs of skin cancer. 

Skin cancer warning signs include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn't heal. If you notice any spots on your skin that are different from the others, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist. 

For a visual guide of what skin cancer can look like, the American Cancer Society has provided a gallery and information about the different types of skin cancer. To view the gallery, click here

Summary

Below are some important takeaways to remember. Make sure you share these tips with your family and friends!

  • Wear sunscreen whenever you are outside for an extended period of time.
  • Wear a hat with at least a 3-inch brim. 
  • Wear sunglasses year-round whenever you are out in the sun. 
  • See a dermatologist if you notice any changes to existing moles or areas of your skin. 
  • Finally, whenever you are outside, seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when sunlight is the most intense.