Your Skin and the Sun

Although many people think that a suntan looks good, the best way to keep your skin healthy and young-looking is to avoid the sun. A suntan is your skin's response to injury caused by ultraviolet light from the sun or artificial tanning lights. Exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. There is no such thing as a safe suntan. Don't use tanning booths, sunlamps or reflecting beds.

When you're outdoors, always use a sunscreen. Store brand sunscreens are usually less expensive than name brand products and work just as well. Some tips for using sunscreen are listed below:

If you have a skin disease or if you have very sensitive skin, consider using a sunscreen that is labeled "chemical-free." If you have dry skin, use a sunscreen cream or lotion. If you have oily skin or if you work in dusty or sandy conditions, you may prefer to use a sunscreen gel, which dries on the skin without leaving an oily film. Gels that contain alcohol may irritate your skin if you have a rash. Also, any product that contains alcohol is flammable until it dries on your skin.

If you have children, protect their skin against sun damage as well. However, don't use a sunscreen on any child younger than six months of age. Keep infants out of direct sunlight whenever possible. If your baby is in the sun, keep his or her skin covered. Use a hat to cover your baby's head.

Elderly people are at risk of vitamin D deficiency if their skin isn't exposed to some sun. Elderly people who use sunscreens should take vitamin D supplements.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you're planning to be outdoors:

Check your skin each month. If you notice any moles that have changed in size or color or if you have any sores that are not healing, see your doctor. These may be early signs of skin cancer.