Summer is here in full force! We have already had several days over 90 degrees with multiple heat advisories being issued as well. We wait a long time for this weather, and put up with some pretty ridiculous winter weather as well, but it is important to protect yourself from the powerful effects of the sun.

As great as the sunshine feels, there are two types of light from the sun that can harm your skin, UVA and UVB. The UVA rays can prematurely “age” your skin, they cause wrinkling and age spots. The UVB rays are what cause the “sunburn” effect. The main reason we want to protect our skin from the sun is that excessive exposure to either UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer.

There are three main strategies to focus on sun safety;

  • Avoid the sun during its’ strongest hours – 10am to 2pm
  • Wear protective clothing – Pants, shirts with long sleeves, sunglasses, hats.
  • Use sunscreen – Apply generously and reapply often.

Most questions around sun safety come from sunscreen. Make sure you are using a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays, it will usually say that it covers both types or it will be labeled as a broad spectrum or full spectrum sunscreen. Also, use a sunscreen with an appropriate SPF rating. SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is a measure of how well it protects against the UVB rays. The SPF rating is calculated on how long it takes to sunburn skin that has been treated with sunscreen compared to skin with no sunscreen protection. Of note since we live in the land of 10,000 lakes, water resistant sunscreen will maintain the SPF for up to 40 minutes while swimming, very water resistant means the SPF is maintained for up to 80 minutes. You can apply sunscreen to children as young as age 6 months. Keep younger children in the shade as much as possible.

When you use sunscreen:

  • Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to dry skin before you go outdoors.
  • Use sunscreen on all skin that will be exposed to the sun; face, ears, hands, arms and lips. If you’re like me and you don’t have much hair on your head, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours — and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating even if you’re using a product that’s water resistant or very water resistant.
  • You can still get sunburned on cloudy days, use sunscreen even when it’s overcast.

Have fun out there, practice good sun safety, and have a great summer!

Jason Miller, Pharm. D.
Pharmacy Clinical Program Manager

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