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Sun and Skin Care - Smart Strategies

Our bodies love a little sunshine. Getting outdoors and soaking up those rays improves our mood, helps us sleep better, and promotes vitamin D production, which in turn helps ward off cancer, brittle bones, heart disease and other disorders.

Too much unprotected exposure, though, puts us at risk of skin cancer, prematurely ages the skin, and can damage the eyes. Sunlamps and tanning beds can have the same harmful effects.

When you’re dealing with the sun, you should know a few terms related to exposure. One is ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and the two types—UVA and UVB—that can affect your skin. UVA represents 95 percent of the rays that reach us, and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVB rays vary in intensity with the season, place and time of day. Both types can age your skin, produce blemishes and turn cells cancerous; UVB is what gives you that painful cherry-red glow.

The other term you should know is sun protection factor, or SPF. Dermatologists say that sunscreen with an SPF of 15 is the bare minimum you should slap on. Be sure to go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that absorbs or blocks both UVA and UVB. Apply the first coat half an hour before you go out—so the sunscreen’s active ingredients can bind with your skin—and frequently after that, especially if you’re in the water or extremely active and sweating.

Everybody’s skin can burn. If you’ve got a fair complexion, though, or hair any shade but dark brown or black, take special care when the sun is up. The same is true if you or a family member have had skin cancer. Other considerations:

• The sun is at its fiercest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., so limit your exposure during that period

• Reflected rays—from snow, sand or water—boost the damaging effects of UV

• Some medications make you more sensitive to the sun; be sure to ask your doctor

Sunscreen and limiting your exposure are no-brainers. You can also buy clothing with built-in SPF protection capable of blocking up to 98 percent of all UV rays. A hat is a smart sun accessory as well.

Most people worry most about how sun exposure affects their skin, but eyes are vulnerable to UV rays as well. Bring some sunglasses along—make sure they filter out UV rays first—and as soon as you find yourself squinting, put them on. Wraparound shades provide the best coverage.

You should consult a dermatologist about how much UV exposure your skin can handle, recommended sunscreens, and about any suspicious blemishes that appear. Be sure to explore your healthcare options here on HealthyIM. Then go have some fun in the sun!

Tags:Sun Care