It’s not Worth the Risk: Use Sunscreen

a woman puts sunscreen on her child's face
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The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer are here and that means lots of time outdoors and lots of sun! This is NOT the time to get careless about sunscreen use. Sunburns don’t have to be a part of your summer if you take a few extra minutes to use sunscreen every time you’re going outside.

The good and the not-so-good of sun

Sunlight is essential for many bodily functions, including the production of vitamin D (needed for bone development) and maintaining circadian rhythm and mood. But too much sun can be harmful, not to mention the immediate irritation and discomfort. Sunburns also increase the risk of premature aging (such as photoaging, wrinkling, and age spots) and various forms of skin cancer – some of which can be deadly. Approximately one out of five people in the US may develop skin cancer during their lifetime.

How do you get a sunburn?

Sunburns occur because of exposure to UVA and UVB rays from the sun. When you are out in the sun for an extended period, these ultraviolet rays penetrate your skin. You see the direct effect of this when your skin turns bright red even though you don’t see how the UV rays internally alter the DNA of your skin cells. The sun affects every person differently, but people with fair skin, light eyes, and red or light-colored hair are more prone to sunburns. People living in (or visiting) an area near the equator are also exposed to the sun at a greater intensity than those who are further away from the equator. Every sunburn can cause serious damage to your skin and, if you have had at least five sunburns, your risk for melanoma (skin cancer) doubles.

Tips for preventing sunburn

Direct exposure to the sun over a period causes your skin to burn, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever be in the sun. If you’re at the pool or the beach, wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and sunglasses. Find a shady area or sit under an umbrella between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when the sunlight is most severe. Wear protective clothing when possible. Here are some additional tips about sunscreen:

· Wear sunscreen anytime you will be outdoors—even if it’s overcast. Better yet, just apply as a part of your normal daily routine.

· Everyone should wear sunscreen, because we are all at risk from UV rays. However, it’s especially important for people with lighter skin shades.

· Sunscreen should have a minimum SPF of 30. The SPF refers to the degree of protection sunscreen offers, in terms of how likely you are to get burned. For example, SPF 30 means it takes approximately 30 times as long to burn with the sunscreen as without.

· Avoid sunscreen use for infants less than six months of age; instead aim for minimal sun exposure.

· Reapply every two hours, or after being in the water or sweating heavily.

· Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside for the best protection.

· Don’t skimp! Take turns helping a friend get those hard-to-reach spots on your back and shoulders. And, don’t forget the tops of your feet and the backs of your legs. Use the “teaspoon and shot glass rule” as a good visual: 1 teaspoon of sunscreen to the face and neck and enough to fit a shot glass (approximately 1 ounce) for exposed areas of your body.

A sunburn does not have to be a normal part of your summer. And, NO, a lobster-red burn is not the symbol of a great day at the beach! (Or any other fun outdoor activity for that matter.) If you do get a

sunburn, treat it right away. Get in the shade and drink extra water to replenish your body fluids. Cool baths, gentle moisturizers, and even over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may help ease the discomfort of a sunburn. If you have significant discomfort, you can also take aspirin or ibuprofen as directed. As always, if you have concerns, talk to your healthcare provider. Any of the four Integrity locations can treat burns, dehydration, rashes, or other symptoms – and no appointment is ever necessary. We’re here every day from 8 am to 8 pm! Happy burn-free summer!


Integrity Urgent Care. First Aid Handbook: Sunburns [blog post]. 27 Apr 2018 [accessed 17 Jun 2019]. National Institutes of Health. Sun and skin: the dark side of sun exposure. NIH News in Health [online newsletter]. Jun 2014 [accessed 17 Jun 2019]. Wu D. Sun protection: appropriate sunscreen use. Harvard Health Publishing [blog]. 21 Jun 2018 [accessed 17 Jun 2019].

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