Protecting Your Skin From the Summer Sun

While attending the annual Columbus Art Festival yesterday, I asked my aunt if she was wearing sunscreen? Her response was, “There’s really no need for that now because the damage has been done at this point.” Since she is 70 years old, I thought she might be right. I told her that I was certain that protecting your skin at any age is important. Of course, skincare became the topic of conversation throughout our afternoon together. Finally we agreed to disagree, and I was given the task of providing her with tips on ways that she could, from this point on, protect her skin from the sun and the harsh winds of winter.

Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light harms fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag and stretch. It also bruises and tears more easily. And though the sun’s rays feel good, they are not a friend to your skin. You may not notice changes that the sun’s rays cause to your skin immediately, however they can cause wrinkles and age spots, and they are the top cause of skin cancer. Spending too much time in the sun can also give your skin freckles, rough texture, white spots, a yellowing of the skin and discolored areas of the skin (which doctors call “mottled pigmentation”).

With June being the official start of summer, it is the time when most of us spend hours upon hours outdoors each day enjoying every second the summer sun has to offer. Keep in mind that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the country each year. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer in 2014. Please keep the following tips in mind as you enjoy your summer fun in the sun this summer.

  • Avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Cover up with protective clothing to reduce skin’s exposure to UV rays and cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Use sunscreen and lip balm with SPF 30 or higher. Apply a generous amount and reapply every 2 hours (or after swimming or sweating).
  • Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB absorption.
  • Sunscreen doesn’t protect from all UV rays, so don’t use sunscreen as a way to stay out in the sun longer.
  • Follow these practices to protect your skin even on cloudy or overcast days.
  • Avoid other sources of UV light such as tanning beds and sun lamps.

You should monitor your skin every month and have a routine check-up with your doctor (at least once yearly), especially if you have risk factors for skin cancer, such as a family or personal history, spending a lot of time outdoors, or you have many moles, pale skin and are prone to sunburn or have had several sunburns.

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