Want Great Skin? Avoid Sun Damage

Everyone loves a healthy glow, but the simple truth is that tanned skin is damaged skin.

Years of getting too much sun can lead to early wrinkling and age spots, and makes you more likely to get skin cancer.

Smart Steps to Take

To avoid sun damage:

  • Stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s burning rays are the strongest.
  • Protect your skin with clothing, a hat, and sunscreen if you go outside. Look for sun-protective clothing.

Sunscreen protects your skin against the sun's ultraviolet rays. Ultraviolet rays include UVA and UVB. UVA penetrates the skin deeper than UVB rays, causing wrinkles and contributing to skin cancer. UVB causes sunburn and is also a factor in skin cancer.


What SPF Means

The sun protection factor (SPF) in sunscreens tells you how well they prevent sunburns. Choose a sunscreen with the right SPF to avoid sunburn and skin damage.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher that says "broad-spectrum" on the label (which means it protects against UVA and UVB rays) and is water-resistant.

When and How Often to Use Sunscreen

You should wear sunscreen every day, in every season, even if it's cloudy, rainy, or cold outside. Put it all over your skin about 15 to 30 minutes before going outside.

Remember, the sun's UVA rays come through car windows and glass, so you still need to apply sunscreen even if you're only going to be driving.

Reapply sunscreen every one and a half hours after you sweat or swim.

If you wear foundation, apply sunscreen first and then put on your foundation. Foundation does not have the broad-spectrum sunscreen that you need.

When to Call a Doctor

If you notice any mark, bump, blemish, or mole that is changing, growing, or bleeding, call your doctor. It may be skin cancer. Skin cancer is often treatable when it's found early.

Also, talk to your doctor about any medications that you take. Some antibiotics, antidepressants, and diabetes drugs can make skin more sensitive to sun. Some drugs that you put on your skin, such as Renova and Retin-A, can make your skin very sensitive and cause it to burn quickly. If you use these treatments, ask your doctor how to protect your skin from the sun.


What to Do If You Get a Sunburn

Take a cool bath to reduce the heat. Then apply 90% aloe vera gel or the juice squeezed directly from the aloe plant. Every tropical culture uses aloe vera as a treatment for sunburn. It soothes damaged skin because it is anti-inflammatory and may prevent the burn from deepening.

If you don't have aloe, apply a moisturizing lotion that doesn't contain alcohol.

Preliminary research suggests that taking up to 200,000 IU of vitamin D by mouth may help decrease the inflammation and damage of sunburn.

A sunburn with blisters is a second-degree burn and puts you at high risk for skin problems. See a doctor if your sunburn has blistered and covers a large area, such as the entire chest and abdomen, or you have chills, a headache or fever.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on July 27, 2021



CDC: "Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Your Personal Health and Safety." 

American Academy of Dermatology: "Sunscreens."

J Invest Dermatol .: "Oral vitamin D rapidly attenuates inflammation from sunburn: an interventional study."

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