Stay Protected: Expert Sunscreen Tips for a Healthy Summer

By Patricia Farris, M.D.
Board-Certified Dermatologist
Clinical Associate Professor, Tulane University School of Medicine

Summer is just around the corner, making it the perfect time to revisit your sunscreen routine. Everyone should use sunscreen to protect their skin. The sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin cancer, wrinkles, brown spots, uneven skin tone and premature aging. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. UV rays are harmful every day, regardless of the weather, and dangerous for everyone, no matter your age or skin tone. Here are some answers to questions patients often ask me:

 How do I protect myself from the sun?

  • Avoid direct exposure to sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is strongest.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing outdoors, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, UV-protecting sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Apply sunscreen to exposed skin.

What kind of sunscreen should I use?

You should use a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays, has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and is water resistant.

Are sunscreens safe? 

The U.S. Food and Drug Association (FDA) regulates sunscreens as over-the-counter drugs with stringent safety assessments, ensuring consumers they are safe and effective. The FDA has approved all sunscreen ingredients currently on the market in the U.S. and strongly advocates using broad-spectrum sunscreens to prevent sunburn and reduce skin cancer risk.  

Sunscreens have been used safely and effectively for decades. With skin cancer affecting more than 3 million Americans annually and melanoma killing nearly 20 Americans a day, I cannot overstate the important role these products play in preventing skin cancer. Using sunscreen as part of your daily routine is vital for everyone’s health.

How should I use sunscreen?

  • Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin not covered by clothing—most adults need about 1 ounce, enough to fill a shot glass.
  • Don’t forget to apply it to the tops of your feet, your neck, your ears and the top of your head.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors.
  • To protect your lips, use a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.

Enjoy your time outdoors this summer—at the beach, in the backyard or wherever you go to have fun. But don’t forget sunscreen as part of your overall health and wellness routine.

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