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A Louisianian’s guide to sun safety: Learn the basics

A Louisianian’s guide to sun safety: Learn the basics

Spending time in the sun is a normal part of our routines year-round around here, but we’re outdoors even more often during the summer. So, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself with some sun safety essentials.

The sun produces ultraviolet rays, often called UV rays. There are three types of UV rays—UVA and UVB rays, which reach the earth’s surface, and UVC rays, which do not.

While the sun brightens up our days (and is obviously better than the stormy alternative), UV exposure from the sun can increase the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.

July is UV Safety Awareness Month, so LCMC Health is sharing how to protect your skin.

The facts about UV rays

A little bit of sun exposure on a regular basis is a good thing, helping your body produce vitamin D, which benefits your immune system and your bone health. When you spend a good bit of time outdoors, though, the risk of sun exposure increases.

UV radiation affects the body in different ways, depending on the type of UV ray. UVA rays are associated with premature skin aging, while UVB rays are responsible for most sunburns and skin cancer. Beyond sun damage to the skin, too much sun exposure can have some serious consequences, including dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

Sounds like reason enough to take the right precautions and protect your skin, right?

Sun safety 101

While you might think about sun safety more during the summer months, it’s important to take steps to protect your skin year-round. Start with these basics:

Never use tanning beds. You might think that a tanning bed offers a “safer” way of getting a tan, but the reality is that no tan is safe. Tanning beds expose the body to UV light, just like the sun does.

Slather on sunscreen. Before heading outdoors, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin, even if you’ll be inside for most of the day.

Don’t forget to reapply. A single application of sunscreen won’t protect you for long! Apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before going outdoors, then reapply at least every two hours while outside. If you’re swimming or sweating excessively (hello, NOLA summer), you’ll need to reapply more frequently.

Seek the shade when possible. While sunscreen will help protect your skin from the sun, it isn’t foolproof. When you’re outside, seek the shade of an overhang, patio roof or umbrella when possible.

Wear a hat and sunglasses. Don a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes and the skin around them.

Choose your outdoor time wisely. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so head outdoors before or after that timeframe for a dose of Mother Nature.

Wear sun-protective gear. If you’ll be spending a good bit of time outside, consider wearing UV-protective clothing in addition to sunscreen. Long-sleeved shirts and pants can help protect your skin, too.

Here’s one last piece of advice: Get to know the UV index. Most people don’t know about or understand this important measure, but it can play a crucial role in helping you protect your skin. This index predicts UV exposure for the day on a scale of 0 to 8+, with higher numbers meaning more UV radiation exposure.

You can usually find the UV index in weather forecasts on the news or in weather apps. Create a habit of checking it each day and plan your outside time accordingly.

Is there a spot on your skin you’re concerned about? Schedule an examination with an LCMC Health dermatologist.