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Summer Health and Safety

4 Ways to Protect Your Skin This Summer (And All Year Long)

Dr. Allison Arthur cares about your skin, but she also knows summer is the time for fun in the sun. The Mayo Clinic-trained dermatologist offers key tips to help you stay burn-free.

1. Heed the golden rule for sunscreen: apply daily

Arthur described a large research study that compared sunscreen use between two adult groups: those who applied it daily to any exposed areas, such as face, ears, and neck, and those who applied it at their own discretion to prep for exposure, such as a day at the beach or on the golf course.

The difference, Arthur outlined, was significant: “After four-and-a-half years, the group that wore sunscreen only when they thought they needed it had a significant increase in brown spots and fine lines. But the daily sunscreen group showed no detectable signs of skin aging.”

2. Don’t let the clouds fool you

Expanding on the implications of the study, Arthur explained there’s always a risk of sunburn — even when you can’t see the sun — because ultraviolet light has no trouble penetrating the cloud layer. “Sun protection is recommended every day, regardless of the weather,” she urged. Because people are less likely to be proactive with sunscreen when it’s grey outside, “overcast” is often a forecast for bad burns.

“In my practice, I often see the worst sunburns after a cloudy day.” Bottom line? Clouds are no excuse to forego daily application.

3. Prep better for the outdoors

To spend a long, fun day outdoors that doesn’t end in sunburn, reapply sunscreen (the American Academy of Dermatologists recommends SPF 30 or higher) every two hours on all exposed areas of the body, or “more frequently if swimming or sweating heavily.”

Pay attention to scheduling, Arthur added, noting that ideal times for outdoor activities are “early in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or later in the afternoon/evening (after 4 p.m.).” The same rules go for car trips, which create the same prolonged exposure to harmful rays. Arthur uses UPF gloves or sunscreen to protect her hands and suggests “having your car windows treated with a UV window film, which filters UV light without requiring a dark tint.”

4. Educate yourself on burn treatment

Let’s face it: sunburns happen, even when you make your best effort at prevention. If you feel a sunburn coming on, or notice the skin of someone in your party is looking red, the first step is to get out of the sun as soon as possible.

Arthur recommends a cool shower or bath, making sure to very gently pat wet skin dry. Afterwards, apply aloe vera lotion to still-damp skin. Finally, take ibuprofen as needed to reduce swelling and ease pain.

“If it’s not possible to stay completely out of the sun until the burn has healed,” she concluded, “cover all affected skin with UPF 50+ clothing and hats.”

Emily Gawlak, [email protected]

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