No one likes a lingering sunburn, especially, one that makes the shirt on your back feel itchy and irritating against your skin.
When your skin has been overexposed to sunlight it causes pain, discomfort and it can put you at risk for skin cancer — the most common of all cancers, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be prevented by avoiding sun damage.
A sunburn may not seem like a big deal; however, you’re probably doing more damage than you thought. When skin is sunburned, cells and blood vessels are damaged. Repeated sun damage causes skin to start looking dry, wrinkled, discolored and leathery. Despite a thicker appearance, the affected skin is weaker and will bruise more easily.
Regardless of race or ethnicity, everyone is affected by overexposure to the sun. Fair skin tones that burn more rapidly are more vulnerable to the effects of the sun, while darker skin tones have a greater tolerance. But all skin types should take precautions.
How to avoid the sun damage
Sun avoidance. Staying out of the sun is the best way to avoid overexposure, but many of us are outdoors regularly.
Here are some tips to limit your exposure:
- Be especially careful from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. when the sun is the most direct and intense.
- When possible, seek shade.
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat.
- Wear dry, dark-colored, tightly woven, full-length clothing.
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses.
- Check the UV index daily.
- Be aware that UV rays can reflect off water, sand, concrete and snow. They can reach below the surface of water. Some UV rays can even penetrate fog and clouds, so don’t underestimate overcast days.
Sunscreen. You should wear sunscreen every day. Most makeup concealers, lotions and lip balms now have SPF in them already. However, if you don’t use products that offer protection on a daily basis, you should work sunscreen into your routine.
Here are some tips for using sunscreen:
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
- Everyone should use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. If you’ve been diagnosed with skin cancer or precancer, you should use sunscreen with an even higher SPF.
- Using sunscreens with lower SPFs can protect you from burns; however, your skin can still be damaged even if you don’t burn.
- Be sure to cover all exposed areas, including your lips, face, ears and backs of your hands.
- Apply sunscreen generously, smoothing it on instead of rubbing it in. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a shot glass (or 45 ml) of sunscreen is the average amount needed to cover all your exposed skin for effective protection.
- Apply sunscreen before you’re sweating or before you go swimming. Moisture makes sunscreen less effective.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, and apply it more frequently if you have been sweating or swimming.
- Chemical sunblocks work by absorbing energy from UV radiation before it affects your skin. Physical sunblocks reflect UV radiation before it reaches your skin. Some sunblocks combine both.
- Water-resistant sunblocks maintain their SPF level for up to 40 minutes of water immersion. Very water-resistant sunblocks maintain their SPF level for 80 minutes.
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