Summer, Skin and Sunscreen: What You Need to Know

May is national Skin Cancer Prevention Month and time to pull out the sunscreen, a product that plays a big role in helping to prevent many skin cancers. You can avoid forgetting the sunscreen by leaving handy extras in places like your golf cart, car or boat. Sunscreen manufacturers make finding a convenient carrying size easy by providing products in “mini” sizes or even foil packets that you can pack in a purse or pocket for summer day outings.

If you’re confused about all those acronyms and numbers on sunscreen labels, you’re not alone. What do they mean anyway?

UVA rays are the “aging” rays and account for 95 percent of your sun exposure. UVAs cause skin aging and contribute to skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeply into the skin layers damaging collagen and cells, leading to wrinkling, hyperpigmentation and loss of elasticity.

UVB rays are the burning rays that mostly affect the outer layer of the skin. They cause tanning and sunburns that increase the risk of skin cancer and other disorders. The risk for skin cancer doubles in people who have had five or more sunburns.

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The SPF rating tells you how long you can stay in the sun without getting burned while wearing a particular product, compared with how long you can stay in the sun before you burn without wearing any sunscreen. Today the choices of SPF ratings range from 8 to 100. An SPF of 8 is for someone who rarely burns and desires a deep tan. People who have very fair skin and plan to be out in the sun for two hours or more should opt for a minimum SPF of 30+. Reapply lotion at least every two hours, with more frequent re-applications if you plan to swim or perspire heavily.

And don’t forget your annual skin checkup. May 10, 17 and 26 are clinic days for the Medical Center’s visiting dermatologists and their appointment slots will book up quickly. Please schedule your appointment as soon as possible. You can make an appointment by clicking here and selecting the blue Dermatology button.

Enjoy the summer sun, but do so wisely with plenty of sunscreen and hydration!