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How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun This Summer

As the summer sun beats down, it’s more important than ever to take steps to protect your skin. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to painful sunburns, premature aging of the skin, and even skin cancer. Fortunately, there are several effective ways to shield your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.

Use Sunscreen Diligently
Applying sunscreen is the foundation of any good sun protection routine. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. Apply a generous amount – about 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass, to cover your entire body. Don’t forget often overlooked areas like the lips, ears, around the eyes, and the scalp if you have thin hair. Reapply every 2 hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating.

Choose the Right Clothing
Protective clothing can be an effective supplement to sunscreen. Opt for lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants made from tightly-woven, darker fabrics that absorb more UV radiation. Look for garments labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 30 or higher. Hats with a wide brim can shield your face, neck, and ears, while sunglasses with wraparound styles or large lenses can protect the delicate skin around your eyes.

Seek Shade Whenever Possible
When you can, seek refuge from direct sun exposure. Make use of trees, umbrellas, canopies, or buildings to create shady spots. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm, so try to plan outdoor activities for earlier or later in the day when possible. If you must be in direct sunlight, take regular breaks in the shade to give your skin a rest.

Time Sun Exposure Carefully
It’s important to gradually build up your skin’s tolerance to the sun, especially at the start of summer. Begin with short 10-15 minute exposures and slowly increase the time as your skin adjusts. Avoid burning at all costs, as sunburns can dramatically increase your long-term skin cancer risk. Be extra cautious with sensitive skin types, children, and those with a history of skin cancer.

Eat Foods that Boost Sun Protection
Certain nutrients found in foods can enhance your skin’s natural defenses against UV radiation. Antioxidants like vitamins C and E, as well as carotenoids like lycopene and beta-carotene, have been shown to provide an additional layer of sun protection when consumed regularly. Good dietary sources include citrus fruits, leafy greens, tomatoes, carrots, and fatty fish like salmon.

Check Medication Side Effects
Some common medications can increase sun sensitivity and the risk of sunburn. These include antibiotics, antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and even some acne medications. If you’re taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about potential sun-related side effects.

Monitor Skin Changes Closely
Pay close attention to your skin and watch for any new or changing moles, freckles, or other spots. Suspicious growths should be checked by a dermatologist, as early detection of skin cancer is crucial for effective treatment. Performing regular self-exams can help you stay on top of any worrisome developments.

With a little diligence, you can enjoy the summer sun while keeping your skin safe and healthy. By combining multiple sun protection strategies, you’ll be able to soak up the warmth without putting your skin at risk. So lather on that sunscreen, grab a wide-brimmed hat, and get outside to make the most of the sunny season!

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