3 Tips for Staying Sun Safe

3 Tips for Staying Sun Safe

Avoid the sun as much as possible but if you can’t, apply sunscreen frequently, stay in the shade, and cover up.

By Elizabeth Schainbaum

Dr. Ting

Dr. Ting

Now that June is here, let’s talk about the sun.

It has its pros: A little sunshine exposure — as in 10 to 15 minutes — can lift your mood, help you sleep better, and give you Vitamin D, which supports healthy teeth, bones, and immune system.

But it also has its cons: Ultraviolet radiation, which comes from the sun, is the leading cause of skin cancer. Sun exposure also causes an estimated 80 percent of wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.

How do we balance the pros and the cons of sunshine?

Kathleen Ting, MD, chief of Mohs Surgery in the Diablo Service Area and regional chair of Mohs chiefs, sees skin cancer patients daily. She offers tips on how to enjoy the warm weather while staying safe in the sun.

Avoid the Sun during Peak Hours

The best way to avoid sunburns and skin damage is to steer clear of the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. because that’s when the sun is the strongest. The shadow rule is a quick way to measure damaging ultraviolet (UV) exposure. If your shadow is shorter than you, that means it’s time to seek shade. If you must be outdoors during peak times, go in the shade, cover up with long sleeves or clothing with UV protection such as rash guards, wear a hat and sunglasses, and put on sunscreen.

Sunscreen Is Your Best Friend

Sunscreen is an important tool for sun protection. Reliable ratings of sunscreens can be found on the Consumer Reports website and the Environmental Working Group website.

Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to protect skin from both ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays. Water resistant means it will last between 40 to 80 minutes on wet or sweaty skin.

Sunscreen should be used year-round and even if it’s cloudy. It is also important to apply it to your face, neck, and hands while driving because UV rays penetrate glass.

Be especially careful around reflective surfaces, such as water, white sand, concrete, snow, and ice, and when you are in higher altitudes because you can burn more easily.

Many people get burned despite using sunscreen because they didn’t apply it early enough or as frequently they should. Put on your first coat at least 15 minutes before going in the sun, and reapply it at least every two hours. It’s easy to forget to reapply, so set an alarm. If you are swimming, sweating, or exercising, put it on more often.

Be sure to cover all your exposed skin, including your scalp (spray sunscreens are good for this), neck, and lips. Many people don’t use enough sunscreen. Adults usually need an ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, to cover their bodies.

That said, the summertime sun does provide a healthy dose of Vitamin D because of the UVB rays. To benefit, it is recommended to be in the sun without sunscreen for no more than 10 minutes a day, although fairer people should work up to 10 minutes over two weeks.

Protect Your Children First

Apply sunscreen to your children FIRST and make them stay out of the water for at least 10 minutes after application. Because children spend a lot of time outdoors and their skin is more sensitive, the most sun exposure — and damage — often occurs before they turn 21. And babies six months and younger should stay out of the sun altogether. Teach your children to protect themselves and avoid exposure.