Put that sunscreen on
Concerning Your Health
By Dr. Jennifer Beckwith
Who needs sunscreen and when is it necessary?
Everyone should wear sunscreen year-round any time there is exposure to the sun. The sun emits harmful ultraviolet rays year round and even on cloudy days, those rays can penetrate skin. More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually in people of all skin colors.
What sunscreen do you recommend?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends any sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, is water resistant, and has a Sun Protection Factor of 30 or greater. SPF 30 blocks at least 97 percent of the sun’s rays. Creams or lotions usually work best for facial skin; sticks work well around the eyes. Gels or sprays are an advantage for areas with hair, such as a man’s chest. Some sunscreens have been developed specifically for babies’ and young children’s skin. (Babies under six months shouldn’t be in the sun and parents should carefully supervise sun exposure for toddlers and children.)
Where should sunscreen be applied?
About 15 minutes before going outdoors, generously apply sunscreen to dry skin on all areas not covered by clothing. Don’t forget protruding parts such as ears, hands and fingers. Protect lips with a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Why is sunlight harmful?
Sunlight has two types of harmful ultraviolet rays that prematurely age skin, cause sunburns and can lead to skin cancer. Research has proven that this ultraviolet radiation from the sun – as well as from artificial sources such as tanning beds – causes cancer.
Every time you tan, you damage your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.
How can I avoid sunburn?
Using sunscreen properly is important. Reapply it every two hours (or as the label directs) and immediately after swimming or activity that results in sweating. Be sure your sunscreen hasn’t expired. Avoid being in the sun during its hottest hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Seek shade regularly. Keep in mind that your chances of burning are greater when you are near reflective surfaces like water, snow and sand. Wear a protective brimmed hat, sunglasses and when possible, clothing that covers more of your body, such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants.
What should I do if I get a sunburn?
Begin treating it as soon as you realize you’re burned. Take cool baths, pat yourself dry and leave some moisture on the skin. Apply moisturizer to keep that moisture in your skin. Drink a lot of water because a sunburn takes fluid away from the skin surface and the body. Using aspirin or ibuprofen and an over-the counter hydrocortisone cream can help reduce discomfort. If your skin blisters badly, or if at any point you notice any changes or unusual growths on your skin, make an appointment with your primary care doctor.
Jennifer Beckwith, MD, a board certified family medicine physician, sees patients at Sanford North Mandan Clinic. Dr. Beckwith completed her undergraduate degree and medical degree at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, and then did her residency at the UND Center for Family Medicine in Bismarck.