How to Protect Yourself from the Sun

Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color. Avoiding overexposure to the sun is the most preventable way to reduce your risk for all skin cancers, including melanoma, the deadliest form. Seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and applying sunscreen are important ways to protect your skin from exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

HOW DOES THE SUN DAMAGE THE SKIN?

Sunlight consists of three types of harmful UV rays: ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC).

In fact, the United States Department of Health & Human Services and the World Health Organization’s International Agency of Research on Cancer have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).

Seek shade whenever possible

HOW DO I PROTECT MY SKIN FROM THE SUN?

You can have fun in the sun, protect your skin and decrease your risk of skin cancer.

HOW DO SUNSCREENS WORK?

Sunscreens protect your skin by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun’s UV rays.

HOW DO I CHOOSE THE RIGHT SUNSCREEN?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use sunscreen that offers the following:

ARE HIGH SPF SUNSCREENS BETTER?

Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s rays.

SPFs higher than 30 block slightly more of the sun’s rays. No sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s rays.

It is important to note that even if you are wearing a high-SPF sunscreen, it should be reapplied approximately every two hours when outdoors and always after swimming or sweating. Do not use high SPF sunscreens as a way to stay in the sun longer.

WHAT TYPE OF SUNSCREEN IS BEST?

The best type of sunscreen is the one you will use again and again.

The form of sunscreen you choose is a matter of personal choice, and may vary depending on the area of the body to be protected and the type of skin you have. Available sunscreen options include gels, lotions, creams, ointments, wax sticks, and sprays. Keep in mind the following tips:

Sprays are sometimes preferred by parents since they are easy to apply to children. Men may find it convenient to spray on a balding scalp. The challenge in using spray sunscreens is that it is difficult to know if you have used enough spray sunscreen to cover all sun-exposed areas of the body. This can result in inadequate coverage and a sunburn.

Never spray sunscreen around or near your face or mouth. Instead, spray an adequate amount of sunscreen into your hands and then apply the sunscreen to the face. When applying spray sunscreens on children, be aware of the direction of the wind to avoid children breathing in the sunscreen.

Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating

HOW MUCH SUNSCREEN SHOULD I USE, AND HOW OFTEN SHOULD I APPLY IT?

Follow these tips to ensure you are using enough sunscreen:

WHAT SUNSCREENS ARE BEST FOR INFANTS AND CHILDREN?

Ideally, babies under 6 months should not spend time directly in the sun. Since babies’ skin is much more sensitive than adults, sunscreens should be avoided if possible. Importantly, babies aren’t able regulate their temperature well so they can easily become overheated. The best sun protection for babies younger than 6 months is to keep them in the shade as much as possible and dress them in long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.

For toddlers and infants 6 months or older, sunscreen can be applied to exposed skin not covered by clothing. Look for sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. They are most appropriate for the thinner skin of toddlers and infants 6 months or older. These ingredients do not penetrate the skin and are less likely to cause irritation.

IS SUNSCREEN SAFE?

Yes, sunscreen is safe to use. Scientific studies actually support using sunscreen. Talk with your dermatologist if you are concerned about specific sunscreen ingredients.

A board-certified dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating the medical, surgical, and cosmetic conditions of the skin, hair and nails. To learn more or to find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org or call toll free (888) 462-DERM (3376).

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology.Copyright © by the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides

American Academy of Dermatology

P.O. Box 1968, Des Plaines, Illinois 60017AAD Public Information Center: 888.462.DERM (3376) AAD Member Resource Center: 866.503.SKIN (7546) Outside the United States: 847.240.1280

Web: aad.org

Email: mrc@aad.org

You Might Also Enjoy...

What is Mohs surgery?

Used to treat skin cancer, this surgery has a unique benefit. During surgery, the surgeon can see where the cancer stops. This isn’t possible with other types of treatment for skin cancer.

Should I get genetic testing for melanoma?

If you’re worried about getting melanoma, the most-serious skin cancer, you may be wondering whether you should have genetic testing. After all, genetic testing is now used find a person’s risk for many diseases.

Melanoma strikes men harder

Researchers have found yet another way that men and women differ. Melanoma, the most-serious skin cancer, affects the sexes differently.

Your best defense vs. another melanoma

If you’ve been treated for melanoma, you may never get another melanoma. Many people don’t. But it’s important to know that you have a greater risk of getting another one. Anyone who has had melanoma has this risk.

Skin Cancer Prevention

Follow these tips to protect your skin from the damaging effects of sun exposure and reduce your risk of skin cancer ...