Actinic keratoses (AKs) develop in skin that has been exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun for years. Therefore, the best defense against AKs is to practice sun protection. Sun-protection practices can prevent:

  • AKs from developing

  • New AKs from forming

  • AKs from recurring (AKs sometimes return after treatment)

Ideally, sun protection should begin early in life because overexposure to UV radiation increases oneís risk of developing AKs. What many people do not realize is that sun protection can be beneficial at any age, even when signs of sun damage, such as AKs, have already appeared. Sun protection can prevent further damage. Research also shows that the skinís recuperative powers can repair some of the damage when protected from ultraviolet (UV) light.

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

Sun-Protection Practices

  1. Avoid deliberate tanning. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds causes skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like youíve been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product. When using a self-tanning product, you should continue to use sunscreen.

  2. Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that includes vitamin supplements. Donít seek the sun.

  3. Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Before going outdoors, generously apply a sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 and is broad-spectrum - protects against both ultraviolet (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. While outdoors, re-apply the sunscreen approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or perspiring.

Dermatologists agree that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to help protect against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.  One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly.  So when applying sunscreen, remember to apply it liberally.  Here are a few more tips:

  • Don't forget your ears, neck, and hands.  Many AKs develop in these areas.  Protect your lips, another high-risk area, with lip balm that offers sun protection with an SPF of 30 or higher.

  • Sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapplied approximately every two hours.

  • Sunscreen should not be used to prolong sun exposure - only to avoid sunburn.  Some UV light gets through sunscreen.

  • Sunscreen does not make sunbathing safe.

  1. Cover up when you must be in the sun. Wear long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays.  Hereís why:

    • Clothing protects your skin from the sunís harmful rays. The tighter the weave, the more sun protection provided. In fact, clothing plays such an important role in sun protection that clothing designed specifically to protect against the sun, as well as laundry additives created to boost clothingís protective function, are available. Your dermatologist may be able to provide you with more information about these products.

    • A wide-brimmed hat shades your face and neck from the sunís rays. Wide-brimmed means the brim circles the entire hat and shades the face and neck.

  2. Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. These reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

More Good Reasons to Practice Sun Protection
Aside from AKs, the sunís UV rays also cause:

  • Premature aging: Signs of premature aging include wrinkles, mottled skin, and loss of skinís firmness.

  • Immunosuppression (weakening of the bodyís ability to protect itself from cancer and other diseases)

  • Cataracts and macular degeneration: Macular degeneration, for which there is no cure, is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 65 and older.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology

While prevention of AKs and skin cancer should begin early in childhood, it is never too late to adopt sun-safe practices.

American Academy of Dermatology


Sun Protection Can Help Reduce New Lesions

When Sun Exposure Unavoidable, Think Photoprotection


     © American Academy of Dermatology, 2010  All rights reserved.

Page last updated 10/19/05

Disclaimer         Copyright Information