How to keep your skin safe beyond sunscreen (2024)

How to keep your skin safe beyond sunscreen (1) Protecting yourself from UV rays is important all year. (Getty Images)

A version of this story was originally published on July 7, 2022. It was updated with new information on May 2, 2024.

One of the biggest parts of summer, whether at the pool, beach or in your own backyard, is outside in the sun.

While spending time outside is a great way to get vitamin D and exercise, medical experts say just 15 minutes of sun exposure can damage your skin.

VCU Health News sat down with Jade Kindley, M.D.,a dermatologist at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital, to find out how you can keep your skin safe.

How important is sunscreen?

Using sunscreen is extremely important. If you plan to be outdoors for more than 15 minutes, you should apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. I also recommend daily use of sunscreen in the morning for places such as the backs of the hands and the face as these areas can get quite a bit of sun exposure even just driving the car or through windows in an office setting. You can even get UV exposure on cloudy days too.

When should people apply and reapply sunscreen?

You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and then every two hours when in the sun. If you're in the water a lot, you may even need to reapply every hour to really maintain your sunscreen's effectiveness. It's also important to remember that sunscreen is not catching 100% of those UVA/UVB rays and that's why sun-protective clothing is important.

What can I wear to help protect me from the sun?

You should wear long-sleeve SPF shirts (they do work!) and a wide-brimmed hat (2-3 inches ideally) when outdoors for prolonged periods to really protect yourself from the sun. For SPF shirts, color doesn't matter, but if you're just using a regular long-sleeve shirt for sun protection, you should go with a darker color as it will deflect more of those harmful UVA/UVB rays.

What are the types of sunscreens people should be using in different situations?

There are chemical and mineral sunscreens available and both work well. Mineral sunscreens, which contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, don't cause damage to coral reefs, so these have become preferred in some more tropical settings. But in general, I tell my patients to find a sunscreen they're willing to use consistently and just use it every two hours as recommended.

How do you treat sunburn? How do you know if it’s more than just a sunburn?

Sunburn can be treated with cool compresses or cool showers and aloe vera along with ibuprofen and acetaminophen for any pain.

If you have fever, weakness, blistering, nausea, vomiting or feel lightheaded, you may have sun poisoning and need to ensure you drink plenty of extra fluids along with the cool compresses and ibuprofen and acetaminophen and seek health care if there is more severe blistering or uncontrollable nausea or vomiting preventing you from taking in plenty of fluids.

Is it safe to use tanning oil? How do I tan safely?

The short answer is no,it is not safe to use tanning oil. Any tan is really not safe. A lot of people think that if they tan slowly and gradually without burning that it’s not dangerous. But that's not true. Research shows that this type of chronic, prolonged sun exposure actually is what can lead to increased risk of skin cancer and it also increases the risk of melanoma.

What is melanoma, and when should I get a mole checked out?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that comes from the pigment-making cells in the skin, called melanocytes. This is one of the more aggressive types of skin cancers and can spread throughout the body if it is not found early and treated. People with a history of sunburn, but also people who have tanned a lot, both outside or in a tanning bed, have increased risk of this type of skin cancer.

These moles typically show what we call the ABCDE's of melanoma. The ABCDE's stand for: Asymmetry meaning the mole doesn't look the same on one side as the other. Border irregularity. Color asymmetry (multiple color browns or blacks or even sometimes a blue-gray color). Diameter that is bigger than 6mm, which is about the size of a pencil eraser.Evolving, where the mole may change shape over time.

How do you keep your skin healthy year-round?

You should check your skin once a month just to become familiar with where moles are located and if they are changing. As you get older, you may notice dry, scaly brown growths that start to appear and many people will be concerned about these. It's always safest to be evaluated by a dermatologist. They can educate you more closely on your body and how to tell these growths from true moles that might have potential for melanoma.

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How to keep your skin safe beyond sunscreen (2024)


How to keep your skin safe beyond sunscreen? ›

You should wear long-sleeve SPF shirts (they do work!) and a wide-brimmed hat (2-3 inches ideally) when outdoors for prolonged periods to really protect yourself from the sun.

How can I protect my skin from sun other than sunscreen? ›

When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts, which can provide protection from UV rays. If wearing this type of clothing isn't practical, try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection.

How to protect yourself from UV radiation? ›

To protect yourself from UV radiation

Wear a wide brim hat to shade your face, head, ears, and neck. Wear wraparound sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, for both UVA and UVB protection. Avoid indoor tanning.

How long does it take for sun to damage skin? ›

“Amazingly, the sun's UV rays can damage unprotected skin in as few as 15 minutes and it can take as long as 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure,” says Hageman.

What can I replace sunscreen with? ›

10 Best Natural Sunscreen Alternatives
  • Sun-Protective (UPF) Clothing. ...
  • Coconut Oil. ...
  • Raspberry Seed Oil. ...
  • Carrot Seed Oil. ...
  • Olive Oil. ...
  • Wheat Germ Oil. ...
  • Zinc Oxide. ...
  • Shea Butter.
May 26, 2023

Does wearing long sleeves protect you from the sun? ›

To help protect your skin from the sun, dermatologists recommend wearing the following items: Lightweight and long-sleeved shirts and pants. It's important to cover up as much of your skin as possible when spending time outdoors. When selecting clothing, avoid fabrics with a loose or open weave, such as lace.

Why wait 15 minutes after sunscreen? ›

The best thing to do after applying a sunscreen product is to wait 15 minutes before going outside. This is a reasonable amount of time to allow the sunscreen to absorb/dry down and be sure it's ready to provide the best possible protection.

Why avoid SPF above 50? ›

High SPF products require higher concentrations of sun-filtering chemicals than low SPF sunscreens do. Some of these ingredients may pose health risks when they penetrate the skin and have been linked to tissue damage and potential hormone disruption. Some may trigger allergic skin reactions.

Can I put Vaseline over SPF? ›

For an extra layer of skin protection, apply Vaseline® Jelly after applying a sunscreen to seal in moisture and help protect your skin for external insults. The occlusive properties of Vaseline® Jelly mean that not only will moisture be locked into the skin, but they also act as a protective barrier for skin.

Why is sunscreen controversial? ›

Some studies have found links between sunscreen chemicals, namely oxybenzone, and changes in hormone, kidney, and reproductive function, and animal research has raised questions about whether oxybenzone may increase cancer risk. But “it's really hard to say, 'Would that really happen in the human body?

How much sun exposure is safe without sunscreen? ›

You only need to be in the sun for 5–15 minutes with your face, arms, or legs uncovered (without sunscreen) 2–3 times a week to get the benefits. In that time, the sun helps your body make vitamin D, which is good for your bones and boosts serotonin, a hormone that improves mood, energy, and focus.

What naturally protects the skin from UV radiation? ›

The primary lines of defense against UV damage are melanin and trans-urocanic acid, which are distributed in the stratum corneum. UV rays that pass beyond these lines of defense can lead to oxidative damage.

How to protect skin without sunscreen? ›

  1. From increasing your vitamin D levels to boosting your mood, sunlight can improve your health in numerous ways. ...
  2. Cover yourself with clothing and a hat. ...
  3. Wear sunglasses to protect your face and eyes. ...
  4. Use an umbrella or parasol when going outdoors. ...
  5. Avoid UV lights. ...
  6. Eat foods that provide sun protection.
Apr 18, 2022

Can I reverse sun damage? ›

While medical professionals cannot reverse the effects of sun damage entirely, there are treatments that can help with collagen production, skin turnover, improvements in the appearance of dark spots and more. These include: Topical treatments containing retinol.

What age does most sun damage occur? ›

Dr. Beer: It's actually a myth that 80 percent of sun damage to the skin is done before age 18. Only about 23 percent of a person's lifetime exposure occurs by age 18. Adults over 40—especially men—actually have the highest annual exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

What can I use to protect me from the sun? ›

Protect Yourself
  • Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun when possible.
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15. ...
  • Wear clothing with a tight weave or high-SPF clothing.
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection and side panels.
  • Take breaks in shaded areas.

Is there a natural SPF? ›

The only active ingredients in a natural sunscreen are the naturally occurring minerals zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Both compounds have been deemed safe for use in cosmetics by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

How can I make my skin more resilient to the sun? ›

  1. Wear broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen every day. ...
  2. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses with UV protection and lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants while outside. ...
  3. Avoid the peak UV hours, usually between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  4. Avoid all forms of tanning.

What supplement protects the skin from the sun? ›

Vitamin E and C

As powerful antioxidants, vitamin E and vitamin C are both sun protection vitamins that can work wonders to protect your body against sunburn. Having adequate vitamin E may actually absorb and offset some of the sun's UV rays, reducing free radicals and cell damage in the body.

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