Protecting your skin while enjoying the summer sun

June has started off to be quite comfortable. There have been several days where highs have been in the 70s and you can spend hours outside enjoying the sunshine without feeling like you are going to melt. Even though the heat may not be sweltering, you need to be thinking about sun safety.

Spending time outside is beneficial

In the winter months, some people get the winter blues. But as the weather gets warmer, more people begin to spend time outside which can be beneficial for your health. Walks outside, riding your bike, hikes in the mountains, running, swimming, and other outdoor activities get your heart rate up. Being active releases endorphins which is also good for your mental health as well. You add the sun’s vitamin D to this mixture and your body sees lots of benefits to these warmer months.  

That said, the sun isn’t strictly beneficial. The UV rays are an invisible kind of radiation that can damage skin cells. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10am-4pm. During these hours you should wear sun protection regardless if it is a sunny or cloudy day. 

When not properly protecting your skin, you may see short term damage from the sun in the form of sunburns, but the longer term damage is much more concerning for your health.

Sunburns increase chance of melanoma

You may think that you have to have lots of severe sunburns to cause skin cancer. Studies show that having just 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk of melanoma. A single severe blistering childhood sunburn can also double your chances of melanoma in adulthood. 

Sun protection

If you are planning to be outside, you need to make sure you have proper sun protection. This is especially important during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Here are some tips to protect your skin:

  • Liberally apply sunscreen. Be sure to wear sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 or higher. Many dermatologists will recommend sunscreens that are at least 7% zinc oxide for the best protection. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours. It’s especially important to get your face, neck and ears as these areas have more frequent exposure to the sun. And don’t forget your lips as they can get sunburnt as well. 
  • Protect your head. Everyone needs head protection either due to thinning hair or a part in your hairline. You can apply sunscreen or wear a hat to reduce your risk of sun exposure on your scalp.
  • Wear clothing to cover your skin. If working outside, you may want to wear thin breathable shirts. Many companies now have SPF clothing that provides protection similar to sunscreen with a SPF. This is great protection and saves you from having to reapply sunscreen to the covered area every 2 hours. For children, it’s nice to opt for long sleeve rashguard type swimsuits with this built in SPF. 
  • Protect your eyes. Sunglasses can protect your eyes from UVA and UVB radiation. To ensure you are benefiting from this protection, select sunglasses that are labeled with a UV400 rating or state 100% UV protection. If your children wear prescription glasses, speak with your ophthalmologist. Some glasses lenses provide protection without being tinted like sunglasses. 

Get outside. Enjoy the warm weather this summer, but be sure to protect your skin while you are outside. Protecting your skin now will reduce your risk of skin cancer years from now. If you do have any skin concerns, please reach out to Healthstar Physicians. We provide advanced level healthcare from birth to geriatrics. From primary care to specialty needs, our team can provide you top quality medical care. We take most forms of insurance and have offices across East Tennessee.