Staying Safe Under the Sun

It’s summer and you’re probably ready for a fun-filled weekend. But are you doing everything you can to protect yourself from the sun?

During these hot days of summer, you may want to go to the beach or lay out under the sun. But too much sun can be harmful, causing your skin to look dry, wrinkled, blotchy and leathery; even worse, extended sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.

One way to protect yourself from the sun’s UVB and UVA rays, both of which can harm your skin, is to always wear sunscreen. Choosing the right sunscreen and understanding how to use it can help reduce skin damage.

For protection against UVB rays, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you choose a sunscreen that states the following on the label:

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  • Broad spectrum
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistant (or very water resistant)

For protection against UVA rays, take a look at the ingredients on the label and make sure one of the following is listed: ecamsule, avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone or zinc oxide.

There are also organic, or natural, sunscreen options that use zinc oxide. These may be a good option if you have skin problems, allergies or prefer a natural product. However, it’s recommended that you discuss using a natural sunscreen with your doctor first, since some of these products may not have been tested by the FDA.

If you do opt for natural sunscreen, you should make sure it is SPF 30 or higher, meaning that it will block out 97% of the sun’s harmful rays.

You may have heard that using sunscreen blocks vitamin D. Harvard Health has found that while sunscreen prevents sunburn by blocking UVB rays, few people apply enough sunscreen to block all light and use it too irregularly to make an impact on vitamin D absorption.

If you’re worried about vitamin D, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends eating a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods/beverages fortified with vitamin D and/or vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D should not be obtained from unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. So don’t be afraid to apply and reapply sunscreen, as needed.

by Cindy Lopez

USC Dermatology at Keck Medicine of USC is recognized nationally for providing the highest quality of dermatology care. Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to learn more. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, call (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visit http://dermatology.keckmedicine.org/