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Sun Protection Tips

Posted on Jun 30, 2015 in Prevention and Wellness

Woman applying sunscreen.

It’s summer. The days are longer, the warm light of the sun beckons outside. But that mood-boosting brightness has a dark side. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, every year more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States. The vast majority – 90 percent – are caused by the sun. The sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) A and B rays are also the main culprit when it comes to visible skin damage such as wrinkles, discoloration and sagging that can make you look older.

“Nearly all skin cancers are preventable if you take the right precautions,” says Lisa Hladik, M.D., a Mills-Peninsula internal medicine physician. “With our sunny climate in California, good daily sun protection is a must. It’s your best defense against skin cancer and is more effective than any anti-aging product you could buy at keeping your skin looking youthful.”

Best Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun

“Your first line of defense is to cover up with lightweight clothing including long-sleeved tops, long pants, sunglasses and a broad-rimmed hat,” recommends Dr. Hladik. “Dark clothing with a tight weave provides the best protection. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you can also look for clothing that includes a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating.”

Don’t forget the lips – apply lip balm with an SPF (sun protection factor) regularly when you are outdoors.

Staying in the shade during the sun’s peak hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. can also help. The shade can reduce your exposure to the sun between 50 and 90 percent depending on its density.

“Take particular care of babies and children, who are even more vulnerable to the sun’s rays,” says Dr. Hladik. “In fact, babies under 6 months of age should avoid all sun exposure and direct sunlight.”

The Sunscreen Factor

Sunscreen is a critical part of the sun protection equation. “Make applying sunscreen part of your daily routine,” says Dr. Hladik. “Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can pass through the clouds and cause skin damage.”

Apply sunscreen to cover the exposed areas of your skin – such as your face, neck and chest. If you have short hair, don’t forget your ears and the back of your neck.

“To save time and money, choose a daily moisturizer that includes a sun protection factor,” says Dr. Hladik. “Many of the latest products include mineral tints that won’t leave a white ghostly sheen – previously the telltale sign that you are wearing sunscreen – on your face.”

Sunscreen Application Tips

To get the best protection from your sunscreen, Dr. Hladik offers the following three tips:

Apply enough: About a quarter of a teaspoon (a quarter-sized amount) is enough for the face, double that if you are also applying sunscreen to your hands and neck. For a whole body application, use about one ounce (enough to fill a shot glass).

Apply in time: Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, as it can take that long for a sunscreen to form its protective layer.

Reapply frequently for continued protection: Slather on the sunscreen every two to three hours or after swimming or sweating a lot during an outdoor workout, even if you are using a water- resistant product. Sunscreens wash, rub and sweat off easily.

Sun reflects off of sand, water, snow, sidewalks and paths, so make sure you apply sunscreen to every exposed area for complete protection from the sun’s rays whether they come from above or below.

“UVA rays also pass through glass,” Dr. Hladik says. “So if you are in the car or you sit by a window at work, don’t skip the sunscreen.”

The Vitamin D Dilemma

Vitamin D deficiency is in the news and it’s often blamed on the overuse of sunscreen.

“Exposure to the sun is the main way we obtain vitamin D, and wearing sunscreen does decrease the skin’s production of this important vitamin,” Dr. Hladik says.

“However, intentional unprotected sun exposure definitely puts you at higher risk of skin cancer. The bottom line is that it’s much easier to treat vitamin D deficiency with a safe inexpensive supplement, rather than having to deal with the serious consequences of a skin cancer diagnosis. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned you may be vitamin D deficient.”

Physician_PCR_PAMF_MPD_LisaHladik_20120725Lisa Hladik, M.D., is a Mills-Peninsula internal medicine physician.