Protecting skin from sun exposure this summer

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer time is almost upon us. With recent warmer temperatures, everyone is thinking about more time outdoors and in the sun.

We all need some exposure to the sun; it is our primary source of Vitamin D, which helps our bodies absorb calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

But according to Health News Digest, it doesn't take much time in the sun to get the necessary Vitamin D, and unprotected exposure to the sun can cause sun damage.

While skin damage isn't 100 percent preventable, there are numerous ways to ensure skin is protected as well as possible when enjoying the outdoors.

Dr. Christopher Bohyer

Dr. Christopher Bohyer, a dermatologist for Putnam County Hospital, said the sun's strongest UV rays are during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

"Avoid sun exposure during these times, if possible and plan your outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon," he added.

Protect yourself with clothing -- a wide-brimmed hat, umbrella or even the latest UV clothing with sun protection implemented directly into the fabric.

"The stitching in the clothing makes it more difficult for the UV rays to get through to your skin," said Bohyer.

There are some overlooked areas such as lips and eyes. To protect them, use a lip balm with an SPF and sunglasses that offer both UVA and UVB protection -- doctor's orders.

Bohyer also recommended looking for shade structures to have outdoor activities.

"Look for shade around playgrounds," he said.

For those who enjoy getting a summer tan, Bohyer recommended using sunscreen with an SPF 45 or higher. He also said it should be reapplied every two hours.

"Guys really should reapply sunscreen more frequently when sweating in the sun," Bohyer noted.

One common tanning misconception is pre-tanning helps.

"That is not true," Bohyer said. "Pre-tanning does not make tanning in the sun any safer."

For the most complete protection in the sun, the Mayo Clinic suggests all three methods -- avoiding sun exposure during high-intensity hours, wearing protective clothing and using sunscreen.

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