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How To Practice Sun Safety And Protect Your Skin

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Written by Alexis Dobranowski, Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

The sun. It's a beautiful thing, and when it's shining, the streets, parks and beaches get really busy. The city comes alive!

But it's not all good. The sun can burn! And, a history of sunburns increases the risk of skin cancer, including melanomas. Sun exposure can also cause wrinkles, dry skin and age spots.

Dr. Mary McKenzie, dermatologist in Sunnybrook's Melanoma Clinic, recommends using a sunscreen 30 SPF or higher if you will be outside. Some make-up now has SPF between 15 and 30 -- that's OK for your daily use. For example if you are just going from your house to car to work and back but not spending time outside, that makeup will provide enough coverage. If you'll be outside longer -- to take a walk, watch a little league game or swim at the beach -- reach for an SPF 30 or higher. If your skin gets irritated after applying sunscreen, try a mineral formula. If you tend to break out after applying sunscreen, try a formula that is made for acne-prone skin.

While skin cancer is more common in people with fair skin, red hair or freckled skin, people with other skin types and tones are not without risk. People with dark complexions should also wear sunscreen daily and practice sun safety.

Here's Dr. McKenzie's other tips for protecting our skin this summer:

Cover up
There are ways to cover up besides sunscreen! Wear light, long-sleeve clothing to protect your skin. Linens are nice and airy. Wear a hat. Avoid the outdoors when the sun is at its peak. Seek shade. Carry an umbrella.

You missed a spot
Don't forget to apply sunscreen to the commonly missed places -- your ears, tops of your feet and hands. Wear a hat to protect the top of your scalp (in particular if your hair is thin, fair or if you are bald). If you can't wear a hat -- but, please wear a hat! -- use sunscreen on the top of your head. Dr. McKenzie says the top of the head is a common trouble spot when it comes to skin cancers.

Pucker up
Lips are super sensitive, and should be protected from the sun, particularly when you are near water (which reflects the sun). Try a chapstick with 30 SPF or more. And reapply often. Some colour lipsticks also offer SPF protection.

Wear shades and find shade
You can't put sunscreen in your eyes. And Dr. McKenzie doesn't recommend putting sunscreen on your eyelids - sweat can make the sunscreen run into the eyes and sting. Sunglasses do double duty - they protect the eyeballs and the eyelids. So don't forget them!

Rub it in
Be sure to put a thick coating of sunscreen on your skin (about a shot glass worth) and rub it in. If you are using a spray sunscreen, keep the bottle close to the skin when you spray. "With the spray bottles, it's a little harder to tell if you've missed a spot," Dr. McKenzie says. "Be sure to still rub it in and use enough sunscreen." Don't spray it in the wind -- you want to make sure it's getting onto your body.

After sun
Is there anything we can do to feel better or minimize a sunburn's effects? Dr. McKenzie says try a mild cortisone cream, available over-the-counter, to reduce the inflammation.

Are you a sun seeker? Be sure to protect yourself when you head outside!

Read more summer safety tips by Sunnybrook experts at health.sunnybrook.ca

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