Sunscreen and Sun Safety

Summer sun safety tips to keep the whole family safe and having fun

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Before you hit the beach or the lake this summer, follow these easy tips to keep you and your family sun-safe.

Although the symptoms of a sunburn are not permanent, sunburns can damage skin cells permanently. Not only can sunburns lead to early skin aging and first- and second-degree burns, sunburns can also lead to skin cancer.

Everyone is susceptible to sunburns, and sunburns can occur in less than 15 minutes of sun exposure.

How Does a Sunburn Occur?

Melanin is what gives your skin its color. When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun or from tanning beds and sunlamps, your body produces more melanin as a form of protection. This is why you may notice a tan when you get some rays.

Sunburns occur when you are exposed to a great amount of UV light that exceeds the ability of melanin to protect your skin.

Sun Safety

  • Reduce the time you spend in the sun. This is particularly important when the sun's rays are the strongest, which is typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Dress appropriately. Dress to protect your body from the sun's rays. This means wearing a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and pants. Furthermore, using an umbrella is recommended. You may consider wearing clothes or outdoor gear that offer sun protection. Check the label for ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes. When selecting sunglasses, make sure they:
    • Offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection. Sunglasses that are more expensive do not necessarily offer more protection.
    • Are labeled as sunglasses. Children are recommended to wear real sunglasses versus toy sunglasses that do not offer UV protection.
  • Apply sunscreen generously.
  • Babies and children need extra precautions and sun protection. In fact, infants under the age of 6 months should have limited sun exposure.

Just because the sun is not out does not mean you're in the clear when it comes to sunburns. It is quite the opposite — you can still get a sunburn on cloudy days because UV rays can pass through clouds.

Selecting Sunscreen

When selecting a sunscreen, make sure to select one that:

  • Is broad spectrum. Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen ensures you are protected from both ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) and ultraviolet A radiation (UVA). Both UVB and UVA can lead to skin aging, sunburn and skin cancer.
  • Offers a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more. SPF is used to represent how much the sunscreen will protect your skin from becoming sunburned.
  • Is water-resistant. These type of sunscreen stay on longer if you get wet or start to sweat. Even though it may be water-resistant, it will still need to be reapplied. Follow the directions on the label to know how often to reapply.

Applying Sunscreen

Sunscreen can protect your skin from the sun's rays, but only if it is applied correctly. When applying sunscreen, make sure to:

  • Apply at least 15 minutes before going outdoors, especially before getting wet.
  • Apply sunscreen to skin that is exposed. This includes your face — especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands and feet.
  • Reapply at least every two hours. Reapplication of sunscreen is typically required more often if you are getting wet or if you are sweating.
  • Apply to your head if you do not have much hair. Wearing a cap or hat is also recommended.

If you are planning on applying bug spray, experts recommend applying the sunscreen first.

Anyone over 6 months old should be protected with sunscreen when spending time outdoors.


Some medications may increase your sensitivity to the sun and result in sunburns. Examples include certain antibiotics, such as tetracyclines, which include doxycycline, and fluoroquinolones. Speak with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any of the medications you take may increase your sensitivity to the sun.

Last Updated:
May 31, 2016