While it often feels great to spend time in the sun, not properly protecting yourself beforehand can lead to some uncomfortable and serious health issues.
As a board-certified dermatologist, Lisa Hitchins, MD, is passionate about helping you protect the health of your skin. She recommends several things you can do this summer to protect your skin and your overall health from conditions like sunburns, premature wrinkles, and skin cancer.
The sun’s effect on your skin
The sun’s relationship with your skin is complex. Your body absorbs sunlight to produce vitamin D, which is necessary for bone health. However, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can be as harmful as they are helpful, leading to acute and long-term health issues.
Your skin’s outer layer contains the melanin pigment that naturally protects your skin from UV ray damage and gives your skin the tanned appearance after spending time in the sun.
Excessive UV ray exposure without additional protection, such as a high-quality sunscreen, can cause your skin to burn. These burns can go beyond the surface of your skin, into the deeper layers, where cell damage or death can occur. Frequent burns from unprotected exposure to the UV rays of the sun is the primary cause of skin cancer.
How to protect your skin health this summer
The number one thing you can do to protect your skin this summer is to invest in a high-quality sunscreen, preferably 30 SPF or higher. Dr. Hitchins can recommend the right sunscreen type and strength for your skin, especially if you have existing skin issues.
Other tips for protecting the health of your skin includes:
Using sunscreen properly
It’s not only important that you use sunscreen, you need to use it properly. If you’re spending time outside, sweating or swimming, you need to reapply sunscreen every hour.
You also need to ensure you’re covering all areas of exposed skin, including your ears, neck, back, and feet. Ask a friend for help applying sunscreen where you can’t reach and be sure to return the favor.
Wearing the right clothing
While it may seem counterproductive to wear more clothes during the hottest days of the year, you need to do just that to protect your skin.
Opt for loose, lightweight clothing that covers all exposed parts of your skin, including your arms and legs. You can also wear a wide-brimmed hat that protects your face, head, and ears from unnecessary sun exposure.
Staying indoors at certain times
If you don’t have to be outside in the early afternoon hours, stay indoors. During these hours, the sun is at its strongest.
If you have to be outside, seek out areas of shade under trees or an umbrella and be sure to wear sunscreen and protective clothing.
Avoid tanning beds
Don’t trade time in the sun for time in a tanning bed. Tanning beds use UV rays that damage skin the same way as the sun, increasing your risk for sunburns and skin cancer.
Perform routine skin checks
Throughout the summer months and the rest of the year, you should perform routine checks on your own skin’s health. Dr. Hitchins can show you how to do a thorough exam of your skin, checking for discoloration, irregular moles, or other abnormal issues.
In many cases, it’s through these regular skin checks that problems are identified in their earliest stages. With quick intervention, many skin conditions, including cancer, can be treated successfully.
To schedule a professional skin evaluation, call Dermatology Center of Northwest Houston today or request a consultation online now.