A father applying sunscreen to his son's face while on a family camping trip.


Protect yourself in the summer sun

  • Your sun protection should offer “broad spectrum” protection for UVA and UVB exposure.
  • Forty percent of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds, meaning your skin can still burn on overcast days.
  • As soon as you notice a burn, get out of the sun immediately and hydrate.

Sunny summer days are great for barbeques, beach days, camping and more. Don’t let your happy memories get seared with sunburn sadness.  Let’s shed some light on the subject with sun protection facts and treatment tips.

Choosing the right sun protection

Sun protection can be confusing because there are many ways to shield your skin:

  • Sunblock blocks ultraviolet (UV) rays.
  • Sunscreen uses chemicals to absorb UV rays.
  • Both are labeled with sun protection factor (SPF) numbers, indicating the amount of protection you’ll get from the sun’s damaging UV rays. The higher the SPF number, the stronger the protection.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) urges users to choose a sunblock or sunscreen that offers “broad spectrum" protection for both UVA and UVB exposure.

Clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) number offers extra security because the sun's UV rays are filtered by the fabric. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a UPF of 30 or higher.

Using sun protection

You’ve chosen your sun protection, now make sure to use enough for your entire body. The AAD says adults and children need about one ounce — enough to fill a shot glass — for good coverage.

  • Apply to your entire body about 15-20 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply every two hours.
  • Protect your head and shade your face with a hat.
  • The AAD recommends lip balm with an SPF of at least 30.
  • Don’t forget quality sunglasses to protect your eyes.

Remember, you still need sun protection on cloudy days. Forty percent of the sun's UV rays can pass through clouds, meaning your skin can still burn.

If you have dark skin, you still need sun protection. People with more skin pigmentation tend to have a lower skin cancer risk, but it doesn't mean they're immune to it.

When to discard sun protection

Sunscreens last for up to three years. Discard expired sunscreen. If it doesn't have an expiration date, write the date of purchase on the bottle.

Miss a spot or forget to re-apply?

As soon as you notice a burn, get out of the sun immediately and hydrate. You can even take a cool shower or bath to decrease your skin’s temperature. In general, the worse the burn, the longer it takes to heal.

  • Mild sunburn usually heals in a few days, and skin will gradually lose the pink or red color and return to normal.
  • With a moderate sunburn, the outer layer of skin may peel away.
  • A more severe sunburn may cause blisters and could take weeks to heal.

Most sunburns are first-degree burns, which cause redness and pain but don’t need to be treated by a doctor. There are steps you can take to ease the discomfort from home.

How to treat sunburn symptoms

  • Blisters. Apply cold compresses or moisturizer. Don’t break open any blisters intentionally—this can cause infection. If a blister does break open, clean the area with mild soap and water. Then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the area with gauze.
  • Itching. Try to avoid scratching as this will delay healing and could lead to a skin infection. Try a one percent hydrocortisone cream or take an antihistamine.
  • Pain and stinging. Take aspirin or ibuprofen and avoid exposing the skin to further sun damage.
  • Peeling skin. Don’t pick or pull at the peeling skin. Apply moisturizer such as aloe vera.

Get medical care if you have any of these symptoms:

  • blistering on more than 20 percent of your body
  • fainting or weakness
  • high fever, headache, dehydration, confusion or nausea
  • skin infection
  • sunburn doesn’t respond to home treatment.

Regardless of what you have planned for your summer, you’ll need sun protection. Don’t get burned: Stock up on fresh sunscreen or sunblock, invest in some quality UPF clothing and hats, and enjoy what’s left of the summer sun! 


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