Sun damage can affect any area of the skin as a result of long-term exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Sun damage most commonly occurs on the face, hands and arms, and may lead to sun spots, age spots, rough skin and wrinkles. Years of sun exposure can also lead to premature aging and skin cancer. Because of the damaging effects of the sun, adequate protection is essential in maintaining the long-term health of the skin, especially in the summer months.
In addition to avoiding the sun during peak hours and wearing protective clothing, sunscreen is one of the best defenses against the harmful rays of the sun. Sunscreen protects the skin against harmful UV rays and should be applied to the skin before engaging in any kind of outdoor activity.
It is important to choose a sunscreen that provides protection from all UV rays of the sun. UVA rays can prematurely age the skin, causing wrinkles and age spots and UVB rays can burn the skin. Too much exposure to UVA or UVB rays can cause skin cancer. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light. Sunscreens that provide protection from all types of UV rays are often advertised as broad-spectrum coverage. It is also important to choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, which refers to the amount of time it takes the skin to react to the sun as opposed to unprotected skin.
To ensure that sunscreen provides the best protection from the sun, is beneficial to remember the following:
- Apply generous amounts of sunscreen to the skin
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going outdoors
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours
- Reapply sunscreen after swimming or heavy perspiration
- Apply sunscreen even when it is cloudy
With regular sunscreen use, people can reduce their risk of skin cancer, age spots, burns, premature aging and other forms of sun damage.