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Protecting your skin from the sun

Monday, July 17, 2017

Getting in a little fun in the sun is a summertime treat, but protecting your skin from exposure to ultraviolet rays while outdoors is no laughing matter.

“Enjoy outdoor activities, of course, but be smart about protecting yourself and your family,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

UV rays, either from exposure to the sun or artificial sources such as tanning beds, can burn the skin or cause premature aging.

Overexposure to UV rays also can cause skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, almost 5 million people annually are treated for the condition. Anyone, regardless of skin tone, can get skin cancer.

One way to protect your skin is to avoid the sun during peak hours of the day, generally, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., even when it is overcast and during all seasons.

While working outside or enjoying the outdoor activities, wear sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and protective clothing, such as pants and long-sleeved shirts.

Also, use a broad-spectrum or full-spectrum sunscreen, which means the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. For best results, choose a product that is SPF 30 or greater to provide a layer of protection.

“UV rays penetrate clouds, and surfaces such as water, sand and snow reflect light so sunscreen can be worn year-round,” Peek said.

To increase the effectiveness of sunscreen, use it in concert with other methods of protection such as seeking shade or wearing appropriate clothing.

Apply a generous amount sunscreen to dry skin about 15 minutes before going outside. Cover any skin that will be exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, arms, hands and lips. Individuals with little or no hair should either wear a hat or apply sunscreen to their heads.

Generally speaking, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours and right after swimming or sweating heavily. Be sure to read the product label and follow the directions.

For more information about protecting skin from harmful UV rays, contact the nearest county Extension office.

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