By: Richard Ang, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist
Protecting your skin from the sun is one of the easiest ways to prevent skin cancer. Despite this, only 14 percent of American men and 30 percent of American women apply sunscreen before heading outdoors for more than an hour.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, like UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, can cause skin to burn. There are two types of UV rays that can damage your skin. This includes UVB radiation, which is responsible for most sunburns, and UVA radiation, which penetrates deep into the skin.
So, what exactly happens when you get a sunburn? When you suffer a sunburn, the DNA in your skin cells are damaged by too much UV radiation. You can’t feel these UV rays on your skin—which makes it easy to get sunburnt on cooler days.
A sunburn doesn’t have to be extremely red, blistering or peeling to cause damage. If your skin is pink or red in the sun, it’s sunburnt. If you have darker skin, it may feel itchy or tender. Getting a sunburn just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma skin cancer. This is why protecting your skin from the sun is essential!
Protect your skin from the sun year-round with these tips.
- Wear sunscreen. Make sure you put sunscreen on before you go out in the sun and apply it at least every two hours. You should read the label on the sunscreen you buy to see if it’s water-resistant, if it has broad spectrum protection and to see its sun protection factor (SPF). An SPF of 30 or higher is recommended. You can also read the American Cancer Society’s recommendations on choosing the right sunscreen. Note, never apply sunscreen to cracked or broken skin.
- Limit sun exposure. Avoid time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. You can also practice the shadow rule. The shadow rule means that if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest and you should get in the shade.
- Be careful around reflective surfaces. Reflective surfaces like water, snow and sand increase your risk of getting sunburnt. Take care and make sure you apply sunscreen often when near these surfaces.
- Wear protective clothing. Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts and hats that shade your face to protect your skin. Dark and tightly-woven clothing protects your skin more than white or loosely woven clothing. Wearing sunglasses can help protect your eyes from UV rays.
- Protect skin even when it’s cloudy. You can still get a sunburn when the weather is cloudy and cool.
- Check if your medications make you sensitive to the sun. Some medications can make you more sun and heat sensitive. Ask your pharmacist if any of your medications cause extra sensitivity. Take extra care when outdoors if this is a side effect of your medications.
Do you have a dermatologic condition that makes protecting your skin a high priority? The dermatology experts at Amber Pharmacy are here to help.