The 4th H
Summer's Almost Over, but Sun Safety Isn't: Tips for
Protecting Your Skin from Sun Damage
Authors: Angie Frost, Kay Nannet, & Arin Weidner
Published: September 4, 2017
Sunburns not only hurt, they can also
ruin a family outing, sporting event, or outdoor fun. Many people have
experienced the disappointment of having to stay inside while waiting for their
sunburns to heal — and that doesn't account for the long-term damage
unprotected skin can experience.
This article will help to shed
some light on sun safety and give you tips that will keep you and your family
safe while enjoying the outdoors.
Many people have questions about sun
safety, and the most logical place to start is "What is a sunburn?"
sunburn is when your skin gets too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the
sun, which causes a superficial inflammation of the skin. We cannot feel UV
radiation like we can feel the heat coming from a stove or an iron (burns from
these heat sources are called "thermal burns"). Because we can't feel UV
radiation, we are more likely to stay outdoors and only pay attention to our
skin once the UV damage has already occurred. In order to decrease your risk of
becoming sunburned, it is important to learn different types of sun protection.
are our answers to five of the most common questions about sun safety.
- How much sunscreen should I wear, and does it
- Does wearing sunscreen also block the about of
vitamin D I can get from the sun?
- Are there ways other than sunscreen to protect
my skin from the sun?
- Can using a tanning bed give me a "base tan" to
- Who is at more risk for getting sunburn and skin
How much should I wear, and does it
are two common rules for applying sunscreen.
first is the teaspoon rule — a teaspoon for your face, a teaspoon for your
arms, a teaspoon for your legs, etc. It can seem a bit overwhelming to have to
add up and measure all of the teaspoons necessary to cover your body.
that brings us to our second rule: Whatever your body size, if you fill your
hand full of sunscreen you should have enough to cover your entire body. This rule
works the same for children; use the size of their hand to ensure enough
coverage of sunscreen for their body.
sunscreens are popular, but it can be difficult to determine if you have full
coverage using these products. With spray-on sunscreen, you know you are
getting enough coverage when you skin looks like it is glistening wet. Instead
of spraying your face directly, first spray the sunscreen into your hand and
then rub the sunscreen on your face.
do expire. They should have an expiration date, which is typically about three
years. It is good to check all sunscreen labels before you purchase some. If
you bought sunscreen this year this year and haven’t used it all, then you
should be able to keep it and use it next season — just check the expiration
date. Sunscreen products also have degrees of SPF protection. You want to look
for labels that say that sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays — this is
called "broad spectrum" protection.
important to remember that sunscreen is water resistant, not waterproof.
One application provides 40-80 minutes of sun protection, so, it is important
to be aware of when it is time to reapply.
The most commonly overlooked areas when applying
sunscreen: back of the neck, ears, behind your arms, and tops of your feet.
Does wearing sunscreen also block the about of vitamin D I can get from
D is important because it is related to bone health. Vitamin D production is a
complex process. Currently, there is no evidence from any rigorous scientific
study that indicates that sunscreen significantly suppresses vitamin D
production. The skin's production of vitamin D is so efficient that even casual
exposure to the sun on your face and arms is typically enough for most people. However,
other factors (such as age, body, location, time of day, and health status)
affect vitamin D production. It's safe to say that using sunscreen won't affect
vitamin D production in most people. If you are concerned about your vitamin D
levels, your physician can order a blood test. Vitamin D also comes from the
foods you eat or from supplements. Always check with your doctor before
altering your diet or adding vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D can be toxic when
mega dosing with a vitamin D supplement, although you cannot get this same
affect with sun exposure. Your body regulates the conversation of vitamin D by
means of the sun to prevent toxic effects.
there ways other than sunscreen to protect my skin from the sun?
can also protect yourself from the sun by wearing sun-protective clothing. Such
clothing uses the ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating. The average UPF
rating on sun-protective clothing is UPF 50. For children and adults (with
special attention to infants and toddlers), sun-protective swim clothing is
also an excellent way to avoid sun damage.
the protection that sunscreen applications fade over 40-80 minutes, sun-protective
clothing provides constant coverage when outside. So, if you wear a sun-protective
shirt and hat (with at least a 3-inch brim), you don’t need to worry about
way to protect yourself from sun exposure is an oral supplement that contains
polypodium leucotomos (PLE). PLE is an extract and is sold over-the-counter.
The most common brand is Heliocare and PLE helps decrease cell damage and
inflammation from ultraviolet light. If you do get a sunburn, PLE can help
repair damaged cells. But in any case, PLE is only a supplement to your sun
care regimen. It should never be the only protection you use against sun
Did you know there are photosensitizing foods?
If you consume or squeeze limes, and get the
juice on your face or hands, you may get a sunburn and not understand why.
Limes increase your skin’s photosensitivity. This means your skin's sensitivity
to UV light increases. Celery, dill, lemons, grapefruit, and figs also have
photosensitizing properties (but to a lesser degree than limes).
using a tanning bed give me a “base tan” to prevent sunburn?
American Academy of Dermatology and the Dermatology
Nurses' Association both strongly discourage
tanning bed use for all minors. In Indiana, children under 16 not only require parental
consent to use a tanning bed, but the parent must be present when their child
is using the tanning bed. Tanning beds can be addictive; people experience
feelings of relaxation due to the release of endorphins when exposed to the
tanning bed lights. But tanning beds are considered carcinogenic. The cumulative
use of ultraviolet light significantly increases the risk of developing skin
cancer. And it is a myth that getting a "base tan" from a tanning bed will
decrease your risk of sunburn later. The base tan you get from a tanning bed is
equivalent to apply sunscreen with SPF 4. SPF 4 will not give you very much
protection against a sunburn for most people who have lighter skin tones.
are safe alternatives to getting the sun-kissed glow. We would like to promote
that we all just love the skin we are in. However, there are many products on
the market that have been determined to be safe for use. There are different
make-up products that contain bronzers that would be for daily use and you can
wash off. Other products include self-tanning lotions and sprays that you apply
that temporarily tint your skin and will wear off over a few days
is at more risk for getting sunburn and skin cancer?
When it comes to skin cancer, there are several risk factors,
family history of skin cancer
immune status (including if you've received organ transplants or are taking
immune suppressing medications)
you have red hair or fair skin
you are taking certain photosensitizing medications (prescription and
age (risk increases with age)
you are prone to sunburn of have had a blistering sunburn
you have more than 18 moles
It's a good idea for all of us to do a self-exam of our
skin every month, and if something shows up that is not normal, then we know we
can go to our healthcare provider. For instance, if you've had a bump for six
weeks that you thought was a pimple, a lesion that bleeds easily, or a mole
that has multiple different colors and looks different than any other mole on
your body, then contact your healthcare provider.
How can you best protect your skin from
the damaging rays of the sun?
sunscreen daily and wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing when you'll
be in direct sunlight. Seeking shade can also help, so be mindful to take
frequent breaks from out of the sun. If you are in an outdoor area that lacks
shade, consider bringing shade with you. Remember, temperature is not a good
indicator of the strength of the sun's rays. The sun can still damage skin on a
cloudy or cool day.
you are in an Indiana 4-H club or are a 4-H club leader in Indiana, consider
incorporating sun safety lessons and activities into your club meetings and
requiring sunscreen for all outdoor activities. One fun activity that kids love
is to make bracelets out of UV color changing beads. When the special beads are
exposed to ultraviolet rays, they change colors to remind you to protect your
skin by applying sunscreen.
you are interested in more sun safety resources, contact Angie Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit our Indiana 4-H
Facebook page (@Indiana4H) and tell us how
you protect your skin while enjoying outdoor activities.
Angie Frost is a 4-H Extension Specialist for Purdue Extension and registered dietitian. She leads a team of county Purdue Extension staff, and collaborates with campus specialists and faculty to provide opportunities for Indiana 4-H youth to learn about healthy living.
Kay Nannet is a nurse
practitioner from Spencer Dermatology Associates in Crawfordsville, Indiana. She has been working in dermatology as a
nurse practitioner since 1992 and has worked with Dr. Linda Spencer since 1998.
Arin Weidner is a 4-H Extension Specialist for Purdue Extension. She supports Indiana 4-H programming by creating technology-facilitated curriculum and learning opportunities. She also collaborates with Purdue Extension staff and faculty to develop new ideas for learning in 4-H for youth and adults.