From taking a trip to the beach to relaxing in a neighborhood park, getting outside and enjoying sunshine during the warmer months can help to promote an active lifestyle, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. It may be surprising to learn that while having fun in the sun, sunburn and skin damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays can occur in as little as 15 minutes. With one out of every three Americans reporting a sunburn each year, it’s important to limit exposure to the sun and protect skin while enjoying the outdoors.
Did you know?
Sunlight produces two types of ultraviolet rays, UVA and UVB. UVA rays can cause skin to age while UVB rays can cause skin to burn. Over time, overexposure to both types of ultraviolet rays can increase the risk of skin cancer —the most common cancer in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fortunately, most skin cancers are treatable when detected early or may be prevented entirely with simple protective measures.
Read on to learn about a few ways to protect and care for skin year-round.
Making a Plan
Planning out activities and breaks throughout the day can help with limiting sun exposure when UV rays are strongest, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Before heading out, check the daily UV Index forecast for recommended precautions by ZIP code and adjust plans to be indoors or seeking shade during the hottest parts of the day. It can also be helpful to prepare a bag with the right sunscreen and protective clothing—see below for more information.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a waterproof sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. “Broad spectrum” sunscreen offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays and is proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer when used as directed with other protective measures. For the best protection, check to ensure that the sunscreen is not past its expiration date. Then, apply to exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside to allow time for it to absorb, reapplying every 90 minutes and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Wearing Protective Clothing
Whenever possible, wear sunglasses with UV protection, long-sleeved shirts, lightweight pants, and a broad-brimmed hat for added protection from the sun. When combined with other protective measures, wearing specialized clothing with fabrics that offer UV protection, such as a long-sleeved swim shirt, may also be an effective option for some people, including sports participants, swimmers, and children who dislike reapplying sunscreen.
Accessing Care When Needed
Regularly examining skin can help to detect issues early when they may be most treatable. If any changes or irregularities appear, such as a suspicious or unusual spot that itches or bleeds, contact a primary care provider to discuss screening and care options, including a referral to a dermatologist if needed. The American Cancer Society provides a guide for performing a skin self-examination.
For convenient care for common health needs—including conditions like sunburns, skin infections, and rashes—members can schedule a same-day video visit with a Sutter clinician or an appointment at Sutter Walk-In Care through My Health Online. Members 18 months and older are welcome daily, including evenings and weekends, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.