What is “sun exposure”?
Any time in the sun with your skin unprotected, is known as sun exposure. Anytime you are outside longer than normal could be considered “excessive.” Even on a cloudy day, the sun’s ultraviolet rays could damage your skin. To minimize the potential for skin damage, you can use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, monitor your exposure time and follow a routine to protect your skin from damage.
Finding the right sunscreen
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, meaning how strong the sun protection is and how well it protects skin from UV exposure. Even though most dermatologist-recommended skincare brands, like Neutrogena and Aveeno, sell sunscreen with SPF ratings up to 100, any sunscreen with SPF 15 or more will protect 93% of your skin as long as you use it according to directions on the label. The higher the SPF, the closer to 100% protection you will get. If you have a history of damaged or sensitive skin, it is highly recommended you use the highest SPF sunscreen you can find. It is equally important to reapply sunscreen as directed at regular intervals during the day. This is especially important if you are getting in and out of the water, and for children whose skin is more sensitive to the UV rays.
Dress Right to Protect Your Skin
Covering up to protect your skin from the sun is one of the best and easiest ways to be safe! Even in the heat, there are some clever ways to add layers while still feeling cool. The best option is to wear a hat, covering the sensitive skin on the top of your head and ears, as well as providing some shade to your face and eyes. Another is to wear clothing that “breathes” or allows air to circulate around your body. Putting on a wrap when you get out of the water is always a good idea. Also, remember to protect the sensitive skin on the top of your foot. It is easy to forget, but very painful once sunburned. Wearing sandals that cover the top of your foot, even with some holes, is always better than flip-flops or no shoes at all.
After the Sun: Summer Skin Care Routine
When you enjoy some time in the sun, you may notice some changes to your skin. The most common might be a sunburn. Your skin will feel very hot and tight, and in some desperate need of tender, loving care:
- Apply aloe or over-the-counter moisturizing lotion to your skin as directed.
- To soothe and cool skin, take a cold bath or shower or apply cold compresses to the area.
- For pain, take your recommended pain reliever.
- If blisters form, don’t break them.
- Protect your skin from further sun exposure.
- Always remember to rehydrate with water, juice, or sports drinks.
When to see a Health Care Provider
Call a health care provider if your sunburn forms blisters or the skin appears pale or numb, and always if a child under one year old has a sunburn. You should call 911 if a sun-exposed person does not seem to be responding appropriately, has a seizure, visual changes or any other neurologic symptoms – these could be symptoms of severe heat illness. Additionally, you should always be checking your skin for any changes. Whether that is changes in freckles, moles, or skin blemishes you already have, or new freckles, moles or skin blemishes. Take note of the size, shape, and color. Any abnormal changes in these three things are cause to make an appointment with your primary care provider.
We often associate a glowing complexion with good health, but skin color obtained from being in the sun – or in a tanning booth – actually accelerates the effects of aging and increases your risk for developing skin cancer. Excessive sun exposure can permanently damage skin tissue and cause precancerous and cancerous skin lesions due to decreases in the skin’s immune function.
Remember to always bring up any skin concerns you may have with your healthcare provider! You can make an appointment now by finding your closest CommuniCare location. You and your family can have fun together outside this summer, and always be sun-safe!