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Protecting Your Skin From the Sun

Table of Contents


Topic Overview

Protecting your skin

Most skin cancer can be prevented. Use the following tips to protect your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles.

Although people with darker skin don't sunburn as easily, they can still get skin cancer. So it's important to use sun protection, no matter what your skin color is.

Avoid sun exposure

The best way to prevent a sunburn is to avoid sun exposure.

Stay out of the midday sun (from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon), which is the strongest sunlight. Find shade if you need to be outdoors. You can also calculate how much ultraviolet (UV) exposure you are getting by using the shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you are means UV exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you are means the UV exposure is high.

Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing, such as:

Preventing sun exposure in children

You should start protecting your child from the sun when he or she is a baby. Because children spend a lot of time outdoors playing, they get most of their lifetime sun exposure in their first 18 years.

Sunscreen protection

If you can't avoid being in the sun, use a sunscreen to help protect your skin while you are in the sun.

Be sure to read the information on the sunscreen label about its SPF value and how much protection it gives your skin. Follow the directions on the label for applying the sunscreen so it is most effective in protecting your skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Choosing a sunscreen

Sunscreens labeled "water-resistant" are made to protect people while they are swimming or sweating. The label will say if the sunscreen will protect you for 40 minutes or 80 minutes.

Applying a sunscreen

Other sunscreen tips

The following tips about sunscreen will help you use it more effectively:

Do not use tanning booths to get a tan. Artificial tanning devices can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer. If you want your skin to look tan, try a sunless tanning cream or spray that makes your skin look tan. And keep using sunscreen when you are in the sun.

For information on sun exposure and vitamin D, see Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D.


Credits for Protecting Your Skin From the Sun

Current as of: February 26, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Patrice Burgess MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine


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