How should I protect my skin from the sun?

Protecting your skin from the sun means using a sun protection factor (SPF) 30 sunscreen when you are outside. Use sunscreen on your face every day, even on days you don't plan to leave the house or office and even on days the sun doesn't shine. That's because you're still exposed to damaging ultraviolet rays through windows and clouds. Thankfully, today it's easy enough to ensure sunscreen coverage, because many moisturizers and even liquid and powder makeup contain sunscreen.

When you are in the sun, slather on the sunscreen. You should use enough to fill a shot glass each time you apply it. And wear a broad-brimmed hat; those baseball caps might be cute, but they're not doing much to keep the sun off your ears and the back of your neck.
There are many ways to protect your skin from the sun. One of the primary ways is to avoid going into direct sunlight by seeking out shaded areas when you will be in ln area exposed to the sun. If this is not a valid option, clothing that blocks the sun is also effective. Use of big hats that shade the face, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and protection for feet and even hands are all viable options. At times when clothing is impractical, such as while swimming, a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 with both UVA and UVB protection is an appropriate option. Depending on the activity, swimming or excessive sweating, frequent reapplications will be necessary.
There are three ways to protect your skin from the sun: seek shade, cover up and use sunscreen.

Shade is most important between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm, when the sun is the strongest. Seek shade under an umbrella, a tree or indoors.

Covering up with clothing is a good idea when you are going to be outdoors as well. Use long sleeves and pants, or bathing suit cover-ups when at the beach or pool. You can even use clothing with built-in SPF protection.

Always use sunscreen -- even in the cooler months. It is recommended to use a broad spectrum sunscreen, which covers both UVA and UVB rays. More recommendations include using an SPF of 30, and using water-resistant SPF protection if you will be swimming or sweating.

There are a number of things a person can do to protect themselves against UV harm.

  • Wear sun-protective clothing: a long-sleeve shirt, pants, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
  • Seek shade. Generously apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (covering both UVA and UVB rays) with a sun-protection factor of at least 30 to all exposed areas 15-30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every two to three hours -- particularly after swimming or sweating.
  • Be aware of the risks. People with an elevated skin-cancer risk include individuals with fair skin, a history of sunburns and excessive sun exposure, a large number of moles or atypical moles, and a personal or family history of skin cancer, as well as those with a compromised immune system or a history of exposure to hazardous chemicals.
  • Plan outdoor activities. When possible, plan outdoor activities that don’t fall during the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most potent. Even on cloudy days, the majority of UV rays reach the earth’s surface.
  • Avoid tanning beds. Each year, millions of people seek to darken their skin away from the sun, putting themselves at greater risk for all types of skin cancers. Just because you don’t burn on a tanning bed doesn’t mean you are safe.
  • Examine your skin once a month to look for new moles or changes in existing ones. Follow the A-B-C-D-E rule: asymmetry (a mole that looks different on one side than on the other); border irregularity (anything jagged, blurry or protruding); color changes, or the appearance of multiple colors; diameter -- moles larger than 6 mm (about 1/4 inch); and evolution -- rapid changes in any of the above. Report anything suspicious to your doctor or dermatologist.
The best line of defense against the sun is to avoid it, especially during peak sun hours. Since this isn’t always practical, next best is to cover up with SPF clothing, hats and sunglasses. If you use a stroller, buy an SPF sun shade to protect your baby. Consider a product like Sun Guard to wash SPF into your regular clothing.

Liberally apply sunscreen to exposed areas at any age, even babies when they are in the sun. I cover my boys with sun block every morning before school because I never know when they will be outside, like at recess. It’s also important to remember to reapply sunscreen frequently, at least every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.

Things to look for in a sunscreen are broad spectrum protection, water resistant and an SPF of at least 30. There are many physical sun blocks available that don’t leave a thick white film on your skin.
Diana K. Blythe, MD

With all the fun summer activities from which to choose, it can be difficult to protect your skin from the sun. Start by avoiding peak sun hours, if possible. The sun strength is greatest in the hours just before and just after noon. In addition, use loose fitting clothes to cover your skin and if your skin is showing, use a sunscreen with spf 30 or greater. Shade and umbrellas can also be a big help.

Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
Sun damage that sets the stage for skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, mainly UVA and UVB. For the best protection, choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) rating of at least 15 and one that shields against both UVA and UVB radiation. Slather it plentifully on all exposed skin whenever you are in the sun. If you have fair skin or expect to be in the sun for several hours, a broad-brimmed hat and protective clothing can offer additional protection.
Always seek shade. It reduces UV by 50 to 95 percent. Sit under a tree or beach umbrella, walk on the shady side of the street, and park yourself on the protected side of a train, bus, or car for midday rides (glass doesn’t block UVA). You may also want to check out UV protection shields for cars (3M Company makes them) if you are a frequent commuter during daylight hours. Avoidance is your number one tactic, especially between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon, and near reflective surfaces (sand, water, snow). Even when it’s overcast, 80 percent of UV light zips right through clouds.

Cover your body. I know what you’re thinking: Who in their right mind wears a lot of clothes at the pool? Or on a hike? Be creative. At the seashore, when you’re not in the water, wrap a sarong or beach towel around your lower half, pull on a T-shirt, plop on a wide-brimmed hat, and wear your sunglasses (they’re nonnegotiable; you can burn your corneas, and who wants crow’s feet?). For sports, invest in a few pieces of lightweight clothing specially made with an ultraviolet protection factor, or UPF. A UPF of 50 means only one-fiftieth of the sun’s UV rays pass through it. Or use a laundry product with TinosorbFD to increase the UPF of your clothes; it’ll last through repeated washings.

Think one teaspoon, two shot glasses. Sunscreen only works if you use enough of it. Before you head outdoors, smooth one teaspoon’s worth of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher on your face and apply at least three ounces -- two shot glasses full -- of sunscreen to your body. On beach days, I usually slather on sunscreen when I’m naked to make sure I’m totally covered before I slip into a bathing suit. And don’t forget your ears, neck, backs of hands, feet, and lips (use at least an SPF 30 lip balm). P.S. There is no such thing as a base tan that protects you from further sun damage. A base tan can prevent burning because it’s your skin’s defense mechanism against burning, but you’ll still suffer damage.

Set your cellphone alarm. Set it to ring two to three hours later, and reapply sunscreen when it goes off. Whenever you come out of the pool or off the volleyball court, reapply even if you put on sweatproof or water-resistant sunscreen.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Too much sun exposure can be detrimental to skin health and appearance. In this video, Dr. Oz gives helpful and healthful tips for protecting one's skin from the sun.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.