Protecting Your Skin in the Summer Sun

Let the fun begin! Summer is upon us, filled with family vacations, pool parties and relaxing beach trip. With all these outdoor activities it is important to remember to protect your skin. Just how to do that can be confusing, so here are a few tips to keep yourself and family safe from those harmful UV rays.

1) Read the label on sunscreen products. Use only sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad-spectrum coverage (label may say “broad spectrum,” “protects against UVA/UVB” or “UVA/UVB protection”).
  • SPF 30 or higher.
  • Water resistance.

2) Use enough sunscreen to generously coat all skin that will be not be covered by clothing. Ask yourself, “Will my face, ears, arms, or hands be covered by clothing?” If not, apply sunscreen.

  • One teaspoon is needed to cover your face and ears.
  • One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied depending on your body size and exposed body areas.
  • Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen.
  • Makeup products with SPF are not designed for liberal use and are not protective unless one teaspoon of liquid makeup or ¼ inch of powder is used. Applying a daily moisturizer with sunscreen before using makeup products ensure full protection.

3) Apply the sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.

4) Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and more frequently when swimming or perspiring.

5) Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or high.

6) Wear protective clothing, which includes long sleeves, pants, wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

7) Seek shade whenever possible.

8) Sunscreen does have an expiration date.

  • The FDA requires that all sunscreens retain their original strength for at least three years.
  • Some sunscreens include an expiration date. If the expiration date has passed, throw out the sunscreen.
  • If you buy a sunscreen that does not have an expiration date, write the date you bought the sunscreen on the bottle. That way you’ll know when to throw it out.
  • You also can look for visible signs that the sunscreen may no longer be good. Any obvious changes in the color or consistency of the product mean it’s time to purchase a new bottle.

Ultraviolet light exposure via sun and tanning bed exposure is directly linked to the development of malignant melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer), basal cell carcinoma (the most common form of skin cancer) and squamous cell carcinoma. Here are the facts:

  • More than 3.5 million skin cancer cases affecting 2 million people are diagnosed annually.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in the United States there will be about 131,810 new cases of melanoma in 2012 — 55,560 noninvasive (in situ) and 76,250 invasive (44,250 men and 32,000 women).
  • It is estimated that in 2012 there will be 9180 deaths from melanoma.
  • The major risk factor for melanoma of the skin is exposure to ultraviolet light.
  • In 2010, new research found that daily sunscreen use cut the incidence of melanoma in half.

Making regular sunscreen use a part of your daily routine, like wearing a seatbelt or brushing your teeth, can reduce your risk of skin cancer and minimize early signs of aging.

Be sun safe and have a great summer.

~ Dr. Christine Ambro