How can I protect myself against sun damage?
Rita George, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: This is my first summer in Phoenix and I love being outdoors, but I want to avoid sun damage to my skin. How can I protect myself against the sun?
Answer: Skin cancer rates in Phoenix are extremely high so you are wise in taking precautions to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun. There are many things you can do to limit your exposure to the sun and keep your skin safer.
Try to stay indoors between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the suns rays are strongest and cause the most damage to your skin. If you must be outdoors during those times, try and seek shade whenever possible, especially if you are working.
Wearing hats and protective clothing can also help with protection. Hats should be tightly woven and it is best to avoid straw hats because they can let the sunlight through.
If you want to enjoy the pool during the summer, you could purchase specialty pull-over shirts, similar to those worn by surfers or boogie borders, which can be found at most local sports-stores.
Wearing sunglasses is also smart because they help limit sun exposure which can cause cataracts and wrinkling around the eyes. Make sure that the sunglasses offer 100 percent UV protection. Wrap-around sunglasses work well because they help prevent the sun from coming in on the sides.
It is also important to make sure that you use a sunscreen that has 30 SPF or more and is broad-spectrum with UVA and UVB protection. Check the expiration dates on your sunscreen bottle to make sure it is still effective. If there is no expiration date on the bottle, it should be discarded after a year.
Typically, people do not use the recommended “dosage” of sunscreen. You should apply approximately a quarter-sized amount on every exposed body part. It is best and most effective to re-apply sunscreen throughout the day and after swimming or sweating as the sunscreen can wear off.
Remember that no one method is perfect and using a few precautions together will work best. In the United States, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but by taking theses precautions you can help reduce your risks of sun damage when outdoors. If you have any questions regarding sun damage, don’t hesitate to talk with your physicians or dermatologist.