UV radiation, be it from the sun or a tanning bed, damages the structure of skin cells. To make matters worse, the thinning of the Earth's protective ozone layer is believed to amplify UV radiation levels. Using sunscreen helps filter out most of these harmful UV rays.
- During all outdoor activities, including gardening, playing sports, walking and jogging, as well as going to the beach, use sunscreen.
- Sunscreens work best when applied liberally to all exposed skin, about 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
- Don't miss the backs of your hands, and don't be fooled by an overcast day. UV light penetrates clouds and can still harm unprotected skin.
- In addition to sunscreen, wearing a wide-brimmed hat — and staying in the shade — offers added protection.
Choosing a sunscreen
Look for broad-spectrum products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. And be sure they have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Many experts recommend an SPF of 30 or higher.
Don’t use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old. Keep them covered up and in the shade instead. If staying completely out of the sun isn’t possible, use a small amount of sunscreen on exposed areas, such as the face and the backs of the hands. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label. If you have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist.