How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun

Dermatologists recommend sun protection for their patients with acne. Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.1,2 Research shows that most cases of skin cancer can be prevented with sun protection. Sun protection also can help prevent a bad sunburn when a patient uses a topical (applied to the skin) retinoid to treat acne. Skin becomes especially sun-sensitive when using these retinoids.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone protect their skin by following these sun-protection practices.

Be Sun Smart®

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible.

  • Seek shade when appropriate. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.

  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.

  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don't seek the sun.3

  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2010.
2 Robinson, JK. Sun Exposure, Sun Protection and Vitamin D. JAMA 2005; 294: 1541-43.
3 Hemminki K, Dong C. Subsequent cancers after in situ and invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the skin. Arch Dermatol 2000;136:647-51.

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Page last updated 4/14/10

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