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Love Your Skin With Some Sun Safety Basics

May 28, 2024

As the weather in Tennessee is heating up, it’s only natural to head outdoors. But before you do, make sure you’re practicing sun safety.

Taking steps to protect your skin is important. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the skin and increases the risk of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and Tennessee is one of the states where it’s most prevalent.

We all know sunscreen is important, but do you know what kind of sunscreen—and what else you can do to protect your skin? We’re filling you in on the details below.

How the Sun Affects Skin

The warmth of the Tennessee sun can feel so good on our skin. However, that warmth comes from the UV rays of the sun, which can also damage the skin if you aren’t careful.

There are three types of UV rays—UVA, UVB, and UVC rays. UVC rays don’t make it through the ozone layer to the earth, but all UVA rays and some UVB rays do. Exposure to those UV rays can cause short-term effects, such as sunburn, but can also lead to premature aging, eye damage, and skin cancer.

Most of our exposure to UV rays comes from the sun, but you can also experience the effects of skin damage when exposed to the artificial sun of a tanning bed. In fact, a tanning bed can actually be even more dangerous than the sun. A single session in a tanning bed greatly increases the risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

Your Sun Safety Guide

Your first and best defense against the harmful UV rays of the sun is to wear sunscreen. But, that’s not the only action you need to take to protect yourself. 

Take these steps to protect your skin when you head out in the sun:

  • Slather on sunscreen. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply the sunscreen to all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside, then reapply at least every two hours while outdoors. If you’re swimming or sweating excessively, reapply more often to make sure you’re protected. Don’t forget to apply a lip balm containing sunscreen to protect your lips.

  • Use your sunscreen correctly. Think you’re covered for sun safety when you spray out some sunscreen on your skin? Think again! If you’re using a spray sunscreen, you need to spray it on—and then rub it in. Same goes for all types of sunscreen. Rub them in carefully, making sure not to miss any exposed skin. In total, you need to use a shot glass full of sunscreen to cover your body.

  • Don’t forget your skin hotspots. When you’re applying sunscreen, be sure you apply it everywhere that the sun can hit! Many people miss some parts of the skin because they just don’t think about them, so remember your ears, nose, scalp, and toes. If you’re wearing your hair down to start the day but may put it up in a ponytail or bun later, be sure to also apply sunscreen to the area that will be exposed.

  • Top your outfit with sunglasses and a hat. If you scroll back up in this article, you’ll notice that we said “eye damage” could be a hazard of the sun. You can’t apply sunscreen to your eyes, so protect them by wearing sunglasses containing UV protection. You can also go a little further to protect your eyes, along with your ears, scalp, and neck, by wearing a broad-brimmed hat.

  • Seek the shade when you can. While it can be nice to soak up the sun, it’s better for you if you soak up a little less. Sit or hang out under an umbrella, an overhang, or a patio to take in the beauty and warmth of the sun without being directly in it. Seeking shade is especially important between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.

  • Wear as much clothing as is practical. OK, we know you aren’t going to wear a ton of clothing when you’re hitting the backyard pool. On other occasions, however, consider wearing clothing that can help protect your skin. Long-sleeved shirts and pants can provide extra protection, and you can even find sun-protective clothing. To find clothing that is designed to provide sun protection, look for those with a UPF number, which is the clothing equivalent of SPF. 

Get out and enjoy the sun and all the beauty our area has to offer this time of year. Just make sure you’re practicing sun safety when you do it!

Has it been a while since you had a checkup? If not, it’s time! Make an appointment with your primary care provider. And if you are still looking for one, West Tennessee Medical Group has primary care providers for you. Find a provider here and schedule an appointment today.