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:
- Use sunscreens with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15.
- If your skin is very sensitive, use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30.
- Apply a generous layer of sunscreen to all parts of your body that will be exposed to the sun.
It takes about 1 oz to cover the entire body.
- Sunscreen works best if it is applied at least 15 minutes before you go outside.
- Reapply sunscreen often, especially if you're sweating.
- Be sure to reapply sunscreen often to your lips.
- Avoid using sunscreens that contain unnecessary ingredients such as fragrances or benzocaine.
These ingredients can irritate your skin.
- Don't stay in the sun for longer periods just because you have used sunscreen.
- Clothing can be the best sunscreen. Dark-colored fabrics and fabrics with tight weaves,
such as twill or broadcloth, are best for protecting your skin from the sun.
- Use water-resistant sunscreens when you swim, water ski or play water sports.
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:
- Reflected ultraviolet light is invisible and can reach and damage shaded skin.
Sand, cement, water and snow can reflect ultraviolet light. Also, clouds don't protect
your skin from the ultraviolet light. As much as 80 percent of ultraviolet light
reaches your skin on cloudy days.
- The intensity of the sun increases in higher elevations, increases in the summer
and increases the closer you are to the equator. You will need extra protection from
the sun or you will need to limit your time in the sun if you are at higher elevations
or are near the equator. Sunlight is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
When possible, stay out of the sun between these hours.
- If you take medicines, ask your doctor whether they make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Photoplex and Shade UVA Guard are 2 sunscreens that protect against UVA rays - the rays
that cause rashes when you take certain medications.
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.