Protect the Skin You're In

May 28, 2024


It is easy to take our skin for granted. It is washable, flexible and durable. It regenerates itself when we get a cut or scrape, and it does not seem to require a lot of maintenance. Yet we often forget that skin is the largest organ of the body, protecting our internal workings from disease and trauma all day, every day. But skin that is overexposed to the sun, sunlamps or tanning beds and their ultraviolet (UV) rays begins to break down, losing its ability to protect us and becoming more vulnerable to diseases such as cancers that occur in the eyes, lips and skin.

Longer days, warmer temperatures and time off school usually mean summer is full of outdoor activities. However, if you are not wearing sunscreen, your fun summer outing can cause dangerous — and even fatal — damage to your skin.

While you and your family are having fun in the sun, follow a few simple practices to keep your skin and eyes safe year-round.

Slather sunscreen

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (covers both UV-A and UV-B) sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.

  • Apply 1 ounce — two tablespoons — to cover all exposed parts of the body 30 minutes before you start your activity outdoors. Don't forget SPF 30 balm for your lips!
  • Reapply every two hours, or sooner if excessive sweating, swimming or toweling off.
  • Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days or ones where you are mostly indoors as UV rays are still present even when you cannot see the sun.

“I recommend that people wear sunscreen every day on their face, neck, chest, arms and hands — those areas of greater chronic sun exposure,” says Renee Christenson, PA, who specializes in dermatology, adding that we can get UV damage even doing simple activities such as going to the mailbox or walking into the grocery store, and especially while driving. “Your hands and arms are exposed the entire time you’re driving, even when the sun is hidden behind clouds.”

Read More: Enjoy the Sun Safely

Wear shades

Too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can seriously damage your eyesight. UV rays can contribute to macular degeneration — a leading cause of blindness — and cataracts. They can even cause skin cancer around your eyelids.

Shading your eyes can help protect your health. But not all sunglasses are created equal. Remember these tips when choosing your shades.

  • Make sure your sunglasses have 99 to 100 percent UV protection. They should block both UV-A and UV-B rays. If there is no label, leave them on the rack.
  • Choose oversized or wraparound styles — the bigger, the better because smaller shades can allow UV rays to sneak in from the sides.
  • Pricier does not equal better. When it comes to UV protection, less expensive pairs can be just as safe as pricier ones.
  • Do not leave home without them. Wear your sunglasses anytime you are outside, even when it is cloudy. Clouds do not block UV rays. Also remember, UV rays are most intense in summer and at high altitudes. They can be especially strong when reflected off water, sand or snow. Always wear sunglasses in these conditions.

Read More: How Nutrition Affects Eye Health

Cover up

If you are going to be out in the sun, wear protective clothing such as pants, long-sleeved shirts and a broad-brimmed hat to protect your skin and eyes from harmful rays. If wearing a baseball hat, don’t forget to sunscreen the back of your neck and your ears.

Stay in the shade

Because midday is when the sun and its UV rays are most intense, try staying in a shaded area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The shadow rule is a quick way to gauge your UV exposure — if your shadow is taller than you, UV exposure is likely to be lower, while if your shadow is shorter than you, your UV exposure will likely be higher.

Check the UV index

Before heading outside, visit The National Weather Service UV Index daily for most zip codes across the country, measuring it on a scale of 0 (low) to 11+ (extreme). While it is best to practice sun safety for all UV index values, it is wise to be extremely cautious when index values are seven or higher. You can download the UV Index mobile app for quick access to your daily UV forecast or you can visit the UV Index Search page on your desktop. If you have an Apple device, you can also view the UV index in the Weather app.

Keep an eye on your skin

Check your skin routinely for any unusual changes such as a new or changing lesion that does not disappear or go back to normal in a month. Talk to your healthcare provider about any concerns you may have, as skin cancer can appear in many shapes and sizes.

Read More: When Fun in the Sun Isn’t

Mind your meds

Some medicines can increase your sensitivity to light or sunburn. Check with your healthcare provider about any of your regular medications.

Get ahead of skin damage

Your primary care provider or a dermatologist can evaluate you for skin cancer as well as treat a wide array of other skin concerns. Find a doctor near you to ensure your skin receives the care it deserves.


Sun Safety - CDC

Eye Protection - The Skin Cancer Foundation

Sunscreen FAQs - American Academy of Dermatology