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Sun Safety: How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun this Summer and All Year Round

It’s an excellent time to consider your sun safety routine as summer approaches. It doesn’t matter what your summer plans are; protection from the sun should always be a part of them. These same strategies apply all year round.

Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds can lead to painful and ugly sunburns that can ruin summer fun. UV is also the primary cause of skin cancer and aging. Skin damage from every sunburn you get increases your risk of skin cancer. Although this may sound frightening, there is always time to pick up good habits.

With clear consequences of excessive sun exposure, using protection from UV rays should be a no-brainer. Here are some tips and information to keep in mind when thinking about sun safety!

Know your sunburn risk

Although people of all skin colors need sun protection, lighter skin users are more likely to burn. Common medications can also make your skin sun-sensitive, including antihistamines, antibiotics, NSAIDs, oral contraceptives, and estrogens. There are several others, so check your current medications with your doctor or pharmacist. Additionally, UV rays can penetrate clouds and reflect off surfaces such as sand, water, and pavement. You can get burned on a cool or cloudy day, so don’t let the weather fool you! Look for the UV index on your weather app or broadcast, and protect yourself accordingly.

Protect yourself with clothing & spend time in the shade.

Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) labeled clothing, darker colors, and tightly woven fabrics are great ways to protect your skin from the sun. Remember your eyes too! Sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection will help keep your eyes protected, and wide-brimmed hats are a great way to protect those sensitive areas on your head and neck.

Seek shade between 10-4 pm when the sun peaks. Bring an umbrella or portable tent to events to create your shady spot. A helpful rule: if your shadow is short, seek shade.

How to choose the right sunscreen

It is then essential to find the right sunscreen to help. The best options are broad spectrum, Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30 or higher sunscreens. Find one that is water-resistant so that the time in the water won’t take it off right away. However, it is important to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.

Also, look for sunscreens made from minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide or chemical sunscreens with avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, and octisalate. While both types are FDA-approved, mineral sunscreens do not absorb into the skin and are safer for sea life.

Protect your kids

If you start the habit of sun protection early, your children will incorporate it into their daily routine, just like brushing their teeth. Infants under six months should stay in the shade rather than wearing sunscreen because of their thinner sensitive skin. All children are vulnerable to excessive sun exposure and need sun protection outside.

Don’t use vitamin D to skimp on sun protection; most people can receive their daily vitamin D requirement through diet (e.g., fish, eggs, dairy, etc.). Sunscreen allows adequate vitamin D production.

If there are restrictions on sunscreen or sun protective clothing at your educational, childcare, and recreational setting, ask your child’s doctor to give you a note to allow use.

Avoid Indoor tanning all year round.

Tanned skin is not healthy skin. A tanning bed tan is not a safer way to tan. Indoor tanning beds/lamp use drastically increases the risk of developing melanoma, a potentially fatal skin cancer.

Multiple states have passed laws to protect children from the widely-recognized risks of tanning beds. Find out about the laws in your state here.

Skin exams are essential for people at higher risk of skin cancer:

A skin self-exam can be performed monthly to help find skin cancer and other problems early. For information on how to perform a skin self-exam, click here.

Healthcare providers such as dermatologists can do full-body exams or look at spots that concern you.


  1. The Skin & Cancer Foundation Inc. Treating Sunburn. Accessed May 15, 2019.
  2. The Skin Cancer Foundation. Sunscreens Explained. May 22, 2012; They were accessed on May 15, 2019.
  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. Accessed May 15, 2019.
  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Indoor Tanning. Accessed May 15, 2019.
  5. Examining a Web-Based Behavioral Intervention to Promote Sun Protection and Skin Self-Exams in Melanoma Patients [press release]. March 2019.

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