What’s Your Summer Skin Protection Strategy? (Updated 2024)

Child with sunscreen applied in the shape of the sun.

Summer skin protection is critical to maintaining healthy, glowing, young-looking skin. A golden tan looks great, but we all know that too much sun exposure can wreak havoc on the long-term resilience of our skin, causing premature aging and even skin cancer.

In this blog post, we’ll cover what you need to know about enjoying the sun safely, why you should take it seriously, and ways you can be kind to your skin year-round (not just when the weather is good).

Your Skin Plays a Crucial Role in Your Health

Your skin is the largest organ in your body and is critical to your overall health. Did you know it is responsible for:

  • Supplying a barrier between your internal organs and the outer environment
  • Your sense of touch, pressure, and vibration
  • Heat regulation
  • Control of evaporation
  • Excretion of sweat
  • Storage and synthesis of water, lipids, and Vitamin D
  • Absorption of medications
  • Communicating the overall health and vibrancy of your body

Too much sun can damage your skin. It can cause lines and wrinkles, crow’s feet, sun spots and other discolorations.

Skin Aging Is a Constant Process

Dr. Ryan Riahi, one of our board-certified dermatologists, spent 3 years working on research regarding skin aging and the sun. His findings demonstrate that all sun exposure, even minimal sun from walking and driving, adds up over time. This leads to wrinkles, sun spots, and aging of the skin.

He cautions that skin cancer does not discriminate and can impact individuals of any age or race. Good habits start early! Did you know that childhood sunburns increase the risk of developing skin cancer later in life?

Although it may be tempting to let the kids run to the pool without sunscreen, preventing sunburns and excessive sun exposure as a child/teen can decrease their risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

How Does the Sun Cause Skin Cancer?

All our lives, we’ve been told that the sun is good for us. Getting outside on a sunny day has long been a prescription for depression. The sun infuses vitamin D into your body, plus the sun on your skin just feels so good! The problem comes from an element of sunlight that you can’t see: ultraviolet radiation.

Radiation from ultraviolet rays is a serious risk factor for many skin cancers. You may have seen or heard the terms “UVA” and “UVB.” These refer to types of sun rays. UVA rays affect skin cells and may play a role in some skin cancers. UVB rays are more dangerous in that they damage the DNA in skin cells, are responsible for sun burns, and cause most types of skin cancers.

Various factors affect a person’s level of UV exposure. They include:

  • Time: UV rays are more likely to affect the skin between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the times to be most vigilant in applying a quality sunscreen product.
  • Season: UV rays are strongest during spring and summer, although they can cause sun damaged skin at any time of year. It’s a mistake to assume that your skin is safe from the harmful effects of the sun on cold but sunny winter days or even when it’s overcast!
  • Altitude: Higher altitudes mean stronger UV rays.
  • Clouds: Some clouds reduce UV exposure while others don’t. You can’t know which clouds are which, so don’t go outside unprotected thinking clouds will stop UV rays.
  • Reflection: Surfaces that reflect light can also reflect harmful ultraviolet rays. Water and snow are two examples. You may have experienced a “surprise” sunburn after a day playing in the snow, and reflection is the reason.

What Should You Look Out For?

All skin cancers, if detected early enough, can be treated by medical or surgical procedures. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: A waxy-looking bump on the skin or a lesion that is flat and either brown or flesh-colored and resembles a scar. Common areas include the neck and face.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: A red, firm nodule or a flat lesion with a surface that appears crusted or scaly. Common on the ears, hands and face.
  • Melanoma: A new large, brown spot, moles that change color and appearance, lesions with oddly shaped borders and coloring such as red, blue, white, or blue-black. Melanoma can appear on many parts of the body.

Your Skin Protection Strategy

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. To help you enjoy the sun safely, here are some guidelines to protect your skin:

#1. Wear Sunscreen and Reapply Often

If you want to or need to spend time under the sun, proper skin protection is your first line of defense. Never spend more than 15 minutes or so in the sun without first applying a high-quality, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Ideally, you should be applying 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.

A 15 SPF sunscreen will block 93 percent of UV rays. In selecting a sunscreen, you don’t need to aim for ultra-high SPF numbers, such as 50 and above. In most cases, anything over 15 will provide dependable protection. Be sure to reapply often (typically every 2 hours), especially if you’re swimming or sweating.

#2. Cover Up

Protect the skin on your face and neck with a large, floppy hat when spending extended time under the sun. You should also wear clothing that’s thick enough to block out the light. This is especially important for legs and arms, which tend to get more sun exposure than other parts of the body.

You may have noticed that many laborers who work all day in the sun wear big hats and long sleeves to protect themselves. The key thing to remember is that our skin was not designed to absorb UV rays, so always prioritize protection when you expect to be out in the sun for any length of time.

#3. Don’t Forget Your Eyes

Your eyes can also be affected by ultraviolet light. When out on a sunny day, wear sunglasses that are designed to block UV rays. If you’ve ever had days with long periods in the sun and then eyes that sting and itch afterward, this is the reason, so always do everything you can to protect your eyes.

#4. Limit Your Sun Exposure

Staying out of the sun is the #1 most effective way to prevent sun damaged skin and possible skin cancer. As mentioned above, 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are when the UV rays are at their strongest. Seek the shade or stay indoors during these hours.

#5. Moisturize!

Summer activities that take you in and out of the water can be especially drying to your skin. Be sure to apply a good moisturizer daily to both your body and face to help shield from environmental drying. Ask your dermatologist to recommend the right moisturizer for your skin type (even better if it has SPF)! Plus, the best way to keep your skin supple is to moisturize from the inside, so drink lots of water.

#6. Get Your Skin Checked Regularly

In addition to wrinkles and sun spots, exposure to the sun can cause potentially deadly skin cancer. Doctors like the talented physicians at DermSurgery Associates are experts at examining the skin for symptoms that might signal skin cancer and many other treatable conditions. Catching symptoms early is critical to successful treatment.

Your should examine your skin head-to-toe every month to monitor your skin health. However, an annual skin check with a professional dermatologist is crucial for early detection and peace of mind.

You Have Treatment Options

Your skin is the first thing people notice when they see you. It can communicate health and radiance, or it can make you look older than you really are. Click here or call (713) 791-9966 to set your appointment today. Your skin will thank you!

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