sunscreen bottle and sunglasses sitting on towel at the beach next to a basket and hat

How to Protect Your Skin from Sun Damage

June 10, 2024

Being outside on a sunny day can feel good, and spending time in the sun has been associated with improved mental health. However, the sun can also be your skin’s worst enemy. Sun exposure can cause sunburn, wrinkles, dark spots, and even skin cancer. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to protect your skin from sun damage that we recommend making into daily habits all year long.

1. Limit Your Sun Exposure

The best way to protect your skin from sun damage is to limit your exposure to the sun. While it’s impossible and unwise to avoid sunlight entirely, limiting your exposure to the sun’s UV radiation can reduce the risk of sun damage. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., so try to stay indoors during these hours when possible. If you need to spend time outdoors, make sure you seek out shade. Taking shelter under a tree, umbrella, or awning can shield you from UV rays. However, it’s important to remember that some UV rays can still reach your skin even under shade, so make sure you take other precautions as well.

2. Wear Sunscreen

close up of hand applying sunscreen to arm

If you want to protect your skin from sun damage, you should get in the habit of applying a thick layer of sunscreen every time you head outside, even on overcast days. Make sure you use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters out both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 30. Keep in mind that sunscreen wears off, so make sure you reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating to maintain optimal sun protection. To protect the sensitive skin of your lips, apply a lip balm with SPF.

3. Cover Up with Protective Clothing

Shorts, tank tops, and sandals are common attire on warm, sunny days. However, short, lightweight clothing provides little protection from sun damage. To protect your skin, choose long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toe shoes so that less skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. Opt for tightly woven fabrics when possible, as they keep out more UV rays than lightweight, breezy fabrics. If you can, choose clothing labeled with UPF, which stands for ultraviolet protection factor. These clothes reduce the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate through the fabric to reach your skin.

4. Avoid Tanning

woman applying self tanner to her arm

One of the best ways to protect your skin from sun damage is to avoid tanning. Your skin tans as a reaction to potentially damaging UV radiation. A deeper tan shows that your skin has been exposed to more UV radiation. This exposure can lead to wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer. Tanning beds increase this risk even more. Instead of tanning in the sun or on a tanning bed, try using a self-tanner. These products can be found in the cosmetic section and come in the form of lotions, foams, gels, etc. When applied to the skin, self-tanners provide a sun-kissed glow without the damaging effects of UV rays.

5. Wear Hats and Sunglasses

Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that’s susceptible to sun damage. Exposure to the sun can cause cataracts, worsened vision, and other effects on the eyes. To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses with a UV 400 rating or labeled with 100 percent UV protection. In addition to wearing sunglasses, you should also consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat. This will help shield your eyes from the sun’s rays as well as provide shade for your face, ears, and neck to limit sun exposure. Avoid straw hats, as these have holes that let sunlight through. Instead, choose a hat made from tightly woven fabric like canvas for optimal protection.

How to Treat Sun Damaged Skin

These are some of the best ways to protect your skin from sun damage. It’s important to remember that your skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays even when it’s cloudy, so make sure you take these precautions every time you head outside. If your skin does get damaged by the sun, there are some treatments that can help. Find out how to treat sun damaged skin so you can minimize the long-term effects of sun damage.

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