The snow has melted, the flowers have bloomed, and that summer sun is calling your name. But before you head outside to celebrate the season, make sure you protect your skin from sun damage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just one severe sunburn in your childhood or teen years can double your chances of developing melanoma later in life. Even if you spent your early years slathered in sunscreen, your risk can still jump up with five serious burns at any other age. Besides skin cancer, sun damage carries with it a slew of other negative effects like wrinkles and skin discoloration.
But don’t let the danger of the sun keep you inside all summer. Dr. Ted Lain has a few tips to help you enjoy the weather while skipping the burn. Try these ideas, whether you’re in high school or retired—it’s never too late to start taking care of your skin.
Sunscreen, sunscreen, and more sunscreen
If you want to prevent sun damage in one easy step, use more sunscreen. When choosing a sunscreen, pay attention to the SPF, or Sun Protection Factor. This number indicates how long a sunscreen will protect your skin. For example, a product with SPF 30 will prevent a sunburn for 30 times longer than your bare skin alone.
The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a sunscreen with SPF 30 on a daily basis. If you are planning any prolonged sun exposure, like a beach day or an afternoon hike, then slap on some SPF 50 sunscreen. And of course, don’t forget to reapply every two hours. (The Huffington Post – What SPF Should You Be Wearing?)
Avoid the sun’s primetime
Typically, the sun’s harmful rays are strongest from 10 AM to 4 PM every day, especially during the summer. An easy way to protect your skin from sun damage is to stay inside or under shade during these hours. Schedule your daily jog earlier in the morning, or host the neighborhood barbecue in the evening. Adjusting when you spend time outside by just an hour or two could save your skin—literally.
Change your outfit
To the delight of dermatologists everywhere, hats have returned to the fashion world. Not only can a wide-brimmed hat complement your swimsuit, it can also shield your face from the sun. As Darrell Rigel, M.D., a professor of dermatology at New York University likes to say, “every 2 inches of brim lowers your skin-cancer risk by 10 percent.” (Shape.com – 7 Ways to Prevent Sun Damage)
Your clothes can also boost your defense against sun damage. Every article of clothing has a certain Ultraviolet Protection Factor, much like the SPF of a sunscreen. Darker colors like blue or black and thicker fabrics like polyester or denim provide higher UPF levels than thin, light pieces. There are also new lines of clothing that are specially designed to absorb UV rays while beating the summer heat. However, any clothing—even your white cotton sundress—protects your skin from the sun on some level, so cover up today and enjoy summer.