How to Protect Your Skin from the Summer Sun


Published by Dr. Charles Gemmi

A Board Certified Orthodontist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics, Dr. Charles Gemmi has been a practicing orthodontist with Orthodontics Limited since 2000 and is a member of the teaching staff at Einstein Medical Center. Orthodontics Limited is a Diamond+ Provider of Invisalign in Philadelphia and Hatboro, PA.

The sun can do serious damage to your skin, even if you do not get a sunburn. While a sunburn is usually the most obvious and most painful reaction your skin can have to the sun, and it is the reaction most readily seen, the truth is that prolonged or chronic sun exposure can actually have much more dangerous and much more detrimental effects than just giving you a burn that is painful for a couple of days. This does not mean, however, that you have to completely avoid the sun. Here are some ways to protect your skin from the summer sun.

1. Cover your skin.

Covering up your skin is often just as effective, if not more effective than wearing sun screen, especially because it does not wear away or lose efficacy the longer you have it on. The sun is at its most intense in between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. If you can stay inside during this time, this is the best way to avoid sun exposure. If you have or want to go out, however, you can, wearing the right clothing, covering your skin. Dark clothing, made from tightly woven cloth will absorb the rays and prevent them from harming your skin.

2. Use sunscreen.

This may seem obvious, but only a small percentage of people actually put on sunscreen properly before going out in the sun. While you don’t necessarily need to lather on the SPF 90 in order to be protected from the sun, you do need to use sunscreen that is at least SPF 15, and make sure that it is thick enough to actually protect you. Most people do not use enough sunscreen, spreading only a thin layer, which can actually reduce the efficacy of the sunscreen by more than 50%. If you are going to be swimming or sweating profusely while outside, you should probably also use a waterproof sunscreen.

3. Reapply sunscreen.

You may think that if you put on sunscreen at the beginning of your beach day, you are taking steps to protect your skin from the sun for the entire day. That is not true, at all. In fact, you actually should apply the sunscreen up to thirty minutes before you are going to be in the sun so that your skin has ample time to absorb it and then you should reapply another coat of sunscreen at least once every two hours. Don’t forget to use a lip balm that has SPF, too! This area of your face is just as likely, if not more likely, to burn.

4. Keep your ears protected.

You might remember to put sunscreen on your arms, hands, legs, and face, but do you remember to put sunscreen on your ears? These usually go without any protection and can be extremely painful when sunburned. Other common areas that are missed include your hairline, the part in your hair, the backs of the hands, and the top of the chest. Even better than wearing sunscreen is wearing a hat when you are out in the sun. It will protect your face, ears, and hairline.

5. Pay special attention to the protruding areas of your face and body.

For example, add an extra layer or two of sunscreen on your nose. Even if you are wearing a hat, because of the structure of the nose, it is going to get more sun exposure than the rest of the body. The tops of the feet are another area that is commonly forgotten when putting on sunscreen and which are going to be out in the sun, usually without any protection at all. Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 or wear a hat and footwear that completely protects this part of your body.

6. Don’t forget to protect yourself from reflecting light.

If you are sitting underneath an umbrella on the beach, you might think you are completely protected from the sun’s rays. The truth is that even the light reflecting off of the water and the sand can be harmful to you. Even just being under water will not protect you from dangerous UV rays. Your chin and neck will be especially affected by reflected light, so don’t forget to protect your skin there, as well as on the rest of your body.

7. Remember that tanning is not healthy.

There simply is no amount of sun exposure that is both safe and that can give you a tan. Sunbathing is bad for everyone, not just for people who fair skin. Those with fair skin are unlikely to be able to tan in the sun and will probably just end up with a very bad sunburn. If, however, you absolutely refuse to stay out of the sun and want a tan, it is a good idea to take it slow. Limit your sun exposure and let your skin tan very gradually.

8. Make sure your medications are not increasing your photosensitivity.

There are a wide variety of medications that can make you more likely to sun burn. Even natural supplements could increase your likelihood of getting a sun burn. If you are taking medications, ask your doctor or pharmacists if you need to do something more than just wear sunscreen to protect your skin while taking or using a certain supplement or medication.

9. Don’t prime with a sun bed.

Many people think they can protect their skin by getting tan before they even get out into the sun. Unfortunately, this is not how sun damage works. Using a tanning bed will probably actually increase the likelihood of skin cancer.

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