Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

The Sun is our primary source of Vitamin D, therefore; we need some sun exposure. You however, don’t need much time in our sun to get your daily requirement. In fact, repeated unprotected sun exposure can cause immune system suppression, skin damage, eye damage and skin cancer. Since skin cancer can affect anyone as it does not discriminate based on age or gender it is important to teach children how to enjoy their fun in the sun safely and to also take the same precautions ourselves.

First some facts:

  • The Sun has 3 types of UV rays: UVA, UVB & UVC
    • UVA: Skin aging, wrinkling, and skin cancer are caused by these rays. Make up the majority of sun exposure
    • UVB: Sun burn, cataracts and effects on the immune system. Also contribute to skin cancer.
    • UVC: Most dangerous. However, our ozone blocks these and therefore they do not reach the Earth
  • Melanin: Our body’s first line of defense against the Suns’ rays. Each person has a different concentration of melanin and this gives us our skin tone. The lighter a natural skin tone is the less melanin is has to protect itself
  • The Melanin increases as our skin tans (darkens), but even ‘healthy’ glows from the sun can be a sign of skin damage
  • The more you’re exposed to the sun, the higher the risk
  • Sun burns develop when the amount of exposure to UV rays is greater than the melanin in the skin
  • Unprotected Sun exposure is more dangerous for those with:
    • Vary fair skin and hair
    • Family history of skin cancer
    • Moles on the skin
  • UV Rays are strongest in the summer, near the equator, and at high altitudes (even during the winter)

How to protect your skin:

  • Cover up: Ensure clothes will keep out harmful UV rays
  • Babies under 6 months of age should not have sun screen applied to them, so it is best to keep them out of the sun whenever possible and dress them in clothes that cover their entire body
  • Wear hats with wide brims to shadow the face
  • Use umbrellas to create shade
  • Avoid the strongest rays of the day – usually 10am – 4pm
  • Apply and reapply protective sunscreen (even when they are going in and out of the house and on cloudy days)
  • Avoid tanning beds
  • Use protective eyewear (even for kids) – sunglasses with 100% UV protection
  • Double check medications – some medications increase sensitivity to the sun

Use Sunscreen:

  • There are several types including some for sensitive skin, applying easily, waterproof/sweat-proof and even some that are scented
  • The degree of protection (SPF), is what matters most when buying sunscreen
  • months & older need an SPF of 30 or more for children
  • Find one that protects against both UVA & UVB rays
  • To avoid skin allergy don’t use sunscreen with PAPB in it
  • Sensitive skin should use one that has titanium dioxide in it
  • Apply correctly:
    • Use whenever in the sun, no matter your skin tone
    • 15 to 30 mins before sun exposure
    • Don’t forget: lips, ears, nose, hands, feet, should and behind the neck
    • Lift straps to apply under clothes
    • Apply generously
    • Reapply often (every 2 hours)
    • Use waterproof is you’ll be around water

What to do if you get sunburned:

  • Do not peel off your sunburn as the skin underneath is vulnerable to infection
  • Take a cool (NOT COLD) bath or shower
  • Apply cool wet compresses to the skin to help with the pain
  • Apply pure aloe vera gel to help with discomfort
  • Take an anti-inflammatory medication (consult your doctor first to make sure it will not react to any other medications you are on) to lessen the pain and itching (Do NOT give asprin to children or teens)
  • Apply topical moisturizing cream to rehydrate skin and treat itching
  • Do not use petroleum based products, they prevent heat and sweat from escaping
  • Do not use benzocaine or products that contain benzocaine which may cause skin irritation or allergy
  • If the sunburn is severe and blisters develop – call your doctor
  • Until you can see your doctor do not pop, scratch or squeeze the blisters
  • Avoid additional sun exposure until sunburn is healed as it will only increase the severity of the burn and increase pain