Keep your skin safe from the sun as you get back outdoors

Chronicle Media

Sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going outside, so the chemicals have a chance to absorb into the skin and prevent sun damage, according to health experts.

Warmer weather is here and after a long winter of being indoors we look to enjoy outdoor activities. But, being outdoors means more exposure to the sun and more chances to damage our skin.

You probably put sunscreen on yourself and your kids when you go to the pool or the beach. But do you know you should protect your skin with more than just sunscreen anytime you’re outside?

Sun protection is important all year round, and it’s best to use several different kinds. When you’re working in the yard, watching a ballgame, or taking an afternoon walk, make sun safety an everyday habit so you can avoid getting a sunburn and lower your chance of getting skin cancer.

What’s in your tote bag?

Here’s an easy tip to help make sure you and your family stay sun-safe. Get ready for summer with a tote bag full of different ways to protect your skin. Keep the tote bag handy. Some important things to pack:

  • A lightweight long-sleeved shirt or cover-up.
  • A hat with a wide brim that shades your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection.

Dr. Amy Brodsky, a dermatologist in private practice at The Derm and on staff at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, provides specific tips to avoid sun damage to your skin.

  1. Wear sunscreen: This is the most important skin care tip. Wear sunscreen every day, preferably mineral based, and reapply every two hours. Mineral based sunscreen blocks more UVA and UVB rays than chemical sunscreen. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you go outside, so the chemicals have a chance to absorb into the skin and prevent sun damage. Reapply every two hours for maximum protection and use 1-2 oz, or the size of two eggs, for the suggested amount.
  2. Treat your sun damage: Use antioxidants, retinoid and sunscreen and seek shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Two blistering sunburns can increase your chances of skin cancer by 50 percent. If you do get it, seek dermatology guidance.
  3. Hydrate your skin: Moisturize your skin with creams instead of lotion and retinoids and antioxidants in the evening.
  4. Wear sun-protected clothing: Wear at least a four-inch brim hat for maximum sun protection. For each inch brim, you decrease your risk of skin cancer by 10%, so a 4-inch brim hat decreases the risk of skin cancer by 40 percent. Baseball hats do not prevent sun damage to the sides of the face or the ears. The best sun protective clothing is made with cotton, bamboo, and spandex mixed with zinc oxide.

“It doesn’t matter if you are living in sunny Florida, Illinois, Wisconsin or just going to the grocery store from your car,” said Brodsky. “Wear sun-protective clothing and put on sunscreen. Most of the sun damage happens before age 18 so it’s imperative for parents to educate children at an early age about sun exposure.”

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays causes most cases of melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer.

You can be proactive by examining your skin head-to-toe every month and schedule an annual exam with a dermatologist.

What should you look for in the self-exam?

  • A mole, birthmark, or brown spot that is increasing in size
    • An open sore that does not heal in three weeks
    • A growth that increases in size and is brown, tan, black or multicolored

“Self-examination is a simple, yet powerful way to save your life,” says Dr. Brodsky. “When caught and treated early, skin cancer is highly treatable.”

Fast facts about skin cancer

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and includes different types.
  • Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes.
  • Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage.
  • Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk.
  • The most common signs of skin cancer are changes on your skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in a mole.

SOURCES: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Advocate Aurora Health