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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Sunburn - Prevention

Protecting your skin

Most skin cancer can be prevented. Use the following tips to protect your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles.

Avoid sun exposure

The best way to prevent a sunburn is to avoid sun exposure.

Stay out of the midday sun (from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon), which is the strongest sunlight. Find shade if you need to be outdoors. You can also calculate how much ultraviolet (UV) exposure you are getting by using the shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you are means UV exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you are means the UV exposure is high.

Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing, such as:

  • Hats with wide 4 in. (10 cm) brims that cover your neck, ears, eyes, and scalp.
  • Sunglasses with UV ray protection, to prevent eye damage that may lead to cataracts.
  • Loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Clothing made with sun protective fabric. These clothes have a special label that tells you how effective they are in protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays.

Preventing sun exposure in children

You should start protecting your child from the sun when he or she is a baby. Because children spend a lot of time outdoors playing, they get most of their lifetime sun exposure in their first 18 years.

  • It's safest to keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun. If you can't keep your baby out of the sun, cover your child's skin with hats and clothing. Protect any bare skin with a small amount of sunscreen.
  • Teach children the ABCs of how to protect their skin from getting sunburned.
    • A = Away. Stay away from the sun in the middle of the day (from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon).
    • B = Block. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher to protect babies' and children's very sensitive skin.
    • C = Cover up. Wear clothing that covers the skin, hats with wide brims, and sunglasses with UV protection. Even children 1 year old should wear sunglasses with UV protection.
    • S = Speak out. Teach others to protect their skin from sun damage.

Sunscreen protection

If you can't avoid being in the sun, use a sunscreen to help protect your skin while you are in the sun.

Be sure to read the information on the sunscreen label about the SPF factor listed on the label and how much protection it gives your skin. Follow the directions on the label for applying the sunscreen so it is most effective in protecting your skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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