How can I protect myself from sunburn?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

You should stay out of the sun at its peak, from before noon until the early evening. Cover yourself fully in lightweight, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. You should apply sunscreen about a half hour before heading out into the sun, and be sure to reapply often, at least every two hours. And if you're swimming or perspiring, you might want to consider water-proof sunscreen. You can protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block UV rays.

Use a sunscreen and wear protective clothing to safeguard your skin from the sun's harmful rays.

The most common hazard of going to the beach, besides sandy toes, is sunburn. As you probably know, getting burned by ultraviolet (UV) rays increases your risk of skin cancer.

For this reason, you should try to avoid the sun's peak hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. When you do go out, be sure there's enough sunscreen to go around, and that everyone's using it. Liberally apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 about 30 minutes before going out. Reapply every two hours or after going in the water or other physical activity.

Additionally, hats and loose-fitting, tightly-woven clothing can offer additional sun protection. Protect your family's eyes by making sure everyone wears sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunburn is better prevented than treated. Besides being painful, sunburn ages the skin and puts people at greater risk for skin cancer. The sun's rays are at their peak between 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M., so avoid being in the sun during those hours. Wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen offer the best protection against sunburn for those who must be in the sun. Do not rely on either of these things to protect against skin cancer.

Sunscreen is an effective way to prevent sunburn. The sun protection factor (SPF) number on a sunscreen product will tell the user how effective the product is against the effects of the sun. A rating of SPF 2 is minimal protection, while an SPF rating of 30 or more is maximum protection and will not even allow tanning. Most physicians recommend a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 for adults and children. Sunscreen should be reapplied after extended time in the sun, excessive sweating or swimming.

School-age children should always wear sunscreen when they will be outside. This includes before going to school on days where children will be outside during recess or lunch breaks. In general, schools will not put sunscreen on your child before recess times. Be vigilant about your child's sun exposure. Insist that he or she wear a hat, sunscreen and other protective clothing.

It is advised that sunscreen not be used on very young children. To prevent sunburn on very young children, keep them out of the sun and dress them in protective clothing.

Take 1,000 IU/day of vitamin E and 2,000 mg/day of vitamin C as supplements for protection if you cannot avoid being in 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.