Skin Safety for the Summer

Many families will be planning numerous outdoor activities throughout the summer. Children and adults alike will likely anticipate having fun at the beach or poolside, and enjoy cooling off during our hot summer months. I hope everyone remembers to stay safe, but to also keep our skin healthy. How you protect your skin today can help prevent skin cancer tomorrow.
Sunscreen is one of the ways that we can protect our skin while playing outside. A recent study showed that only 25% of youth apply sunscreen appropriately. So how should we wear sunscreen? The first step is to choose an appropriate sunscreen. Sunscreen with SPF 15 protects from about 95% of UV rays, SPF 30 protects against about 97% of UV rays, and SPF 50 and higher protects from about 98% of UV ray damage.

You should start applying sunscreen if you are going to be outside in the sun for more than 30 minutes. Most sunscreens wear off after 15 minutes of being in the water, so reapply sunscreen every time you dry off after getting out of the water. Because we sweat the sunscreen off as we are outside, everyone should reapply sunscreen every two hours while outside.
The peak time that UV rays are shining directly on us is about 10 am until 3 pm. When possible, it is best to avoid direct sunlight during these times. Even while under an umbrella or when it is cloudy outside, your skin is still getting UV rays. Therefore, wearing sunscreen is still imperative. Another way to protect your skin is to wear protective clothing and wide-brimmed hats while out in the sun.

For children less than six months old, it is recommended to not apply sunscreen except to small portions of the body such as the nose and hands that cannot be covered with clothing. The skin of infants is much different than adult skin, and so sunscreen in these young children is absorbed more and is not as effective. Although sometimes unavoidable, for infants it is best to avoid being outside for long periods of time in the middle of the day.
Another problem with being exposed to direct sunlight is that it can dry out your skin. Be sure to keep your skin moisturized throughout the day. This is especially important for those who are prone to skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis or acne. If you have sensitive skin, try to moisturize with an unscented lotion as the chemicals in the scented lotions can be irritating as well.

If you are on any medication, be sure that it is safe to take while you are exposed to sunlight. Some medications can cause painful or simply annoying rashes whereas other medications can cause more serious, life-threatening rashes and conditions if you are out in the sun while the medication is still in your system. The vast majority of medications do not have these side effects, but it is important to ask your physician if you are unsure of potential side effects of any medicine you are taking.

We are so busy or preoccupied with other concerns of our health or bodies that it is easy to forget that our skin is the largest organ of the body. It protects the rest of our body from damage that can be caused by harmful things in the environment. So let us remember to protect our skin this summer like it naturally protects us every day!

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.