The skin, your body’s largest organ, protects you against heat, light, injury, and infection. Tanned skin is not a sign of good health. It means that your skin has been hurt by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much sun without protection can cause skin damage, eye problems, and more serious health problems such as skin cancer and lip cancer. The good news is that you can take steps to protect your natural beauty and your health.
Steps you can take:
- Avoid the rays. Stay inside or in the shade when the sun’s rays are the strongest. This is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. UV rays can also reach you on cloudy days and during any season.
- Apply lots of sunscreen. Use sunscreen on all exposed skin that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Your sunscreen should protect you from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every 2 hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Do not forget to apply sunscreen to your lips, ears, feet, hands, bald spots or a part in your hair, and the back of the neck. Also, apply it under bathing suit straps, necklaces, bracelets, and sunglasses. You should put on 1 ounce of sunscreen every 2 hours. Use more if you are swimming or sweating. A small tube containing 3 to 5 ounces of sunscreen might only be enough for one person during a day at the beach.
- Accessorize. Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants. If you can’t wear long shirts and pants, try to stay in the shade and wear sunscreen. Keep your eyes safe with wraparound sunglasses with 100 percent UV ray protection.
- Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds. UV light from tanning beds and the sun cause skin cancer and make your skin look wrinkled. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, think about using a self-tanning lotion. Remember that you still need to use sunscreen, even if you use a self-tanning lotion!
- Check your skin often. Look for changes in size, texture, or color of moles or birthmarks or patches on the skin that look dry, scaly, reddish, and slightly raised. See your doctor right away if you find anything unusual.
- Get vitamin D safely. Vitamin D is an important vitamin that your body produces when you are out in the sun. But there are other ways to get vitamin D that don’t require you to be in the sun’s rays. You can get vitamin D through fortified milk and orange juice, cheese, butter, cereals, and fish. You can also get vitamin D through vitamin supplements. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you have questions about vitamin D.
Did you know that too much sun exposure can cause:
Melanoma (mell-ah-NOH-ma) is the most serious form of skin cancer. Be aware of any unusual skin rashes or of any change in the color or size of a mole, and talk to your doctor or nurse about it. Finding a melanoma early can save your life! Check your skin each month for new or changing moles.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers
Nonmelanoma (non-mell-ah-NOH-ma) skin cancers are not as serious as melanoma. However, they can still cause health problems and need to be treated by a doctor.
There are two kinds:
- Basal cell carcinomas — these are small tumors on the skin that look like small fleshy bumps
- Squamous cell carcinomas — these are small tumors on the skin that might appear as red, scaly patches
Actinic keratoses (ack-TIN-ick ker-ah-TOE-sees) are growths on the skin caused by the sun. They are usually found on the face, hands, forearms, and the “V” of the neck. They are usually rough and scaly. See a doctor right away if you notice these growths.
Early aging of the skin
Being in the sun — or laying in a tanning bed — without proper protection causes the skin to become thick, wrinkled, and leathery.
Read “Steps you can take” above for ideas on how to protect your skin from the sun!
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