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Keeping your skin safe with sun safety basics

Keeping your skin safe with sun safety basics

The weather is heating up, and the great outdoors are calling! Whether you’re headed outside for an afternoon stroll or to enjoy a neighborhood barbecue, you’ll want to brush up on your sun safety basics first.

Here in Louisiana, we are all too familiar with how beautiful—and powerful—the sun can be! While we want to soak it up, we also recognize that exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be dangerous.

That doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors all summer, though. You can still enjoy time outside while reducing your risk of skin cancer and skin damage.

How the sun affects your skin

You’ve probably heard about UV rays, but did you know there are multiple kinds of UV rays? There are three types—UVA rays, UVB rays and UVC rays. UVC rays don’t reach the surface of the earth, but UVA and UVB rays do.

UVA rays contain the least amount of energy, but they can cause cells in the skin to age more quickly, leading to sun damage like wrinkles. These rays also play some part in the development of skin cancer.

UVB rays are primarily responsible for skin cancer. They damage the DNA in skin cells and cause sunburns.

While the sun is a primary contributor of UV radiation, you can also get UV exposure from tanning beds. The UV light in modern tanning beds is primarily from UVA rays.

Enjoying the sun, the safe way

Knowing that exposure to the sun can increase your risk of skin cancer and skin damage, what can you do to stay safe? Start with these sun safety basics:

Slather on the sunscreen. If you’re going to be outdoors, the single best way to protect your skin is to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 on all exposed skin. You also want to look for a sunscreen with water resistance if you’re planning to be in the water. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours while outdoors, or more frequently if swimming or sweating.

Add a hat to your outfit. Down here in Louisiana, we are all well-acquainted with the aesthetic appeal of a beautiful hat! That same hat can have added benefits, too. Wear a hat with a wide brim when outdoors to shield your scalp, face, ears and neck from the sun. Pair your hat with some sunglasses for even better protection.

Consider your clothing choices. While a swimsuit might seem like the perfect outfit when spending extended time outdoors, adding other layers can keep your skin safe. Long-sleeved shirts and pants made of tightly woven fabric in a dark color can provide an added layer of protection even if you’re wearing sunscreen.

Choose your outdoor time wisely. The sun’s UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to spend your time outdoors in the early mornings or evenings to shield your skin as much as possible. If you’re spending extended time outdoors, take a break in well-shaded or air-conditioned spaces at some point during that time.

Find the shade. When you aren’t in the pool, find a shady spot! Plant yourself under an umbrella, a tree or an overhang. Even if you’re in the pool, you can seek the shade. Pick out a float with an umbrella attached or use a sun umbrella.

One other important note: Dermatologists recommend taking these skin precautions no matter what skin tone you have. Every person is at risk of skin cancer and skin damage.

Wondering what else you can do to protect your skin and your health? Make an appointment with a LCMC Health primary care provider who can point you in the right direction.