Let the Sun Shine, but Protect Your Skin! By Kristen Upham, BS, MSN, FNP-C

One of the best parts of these summer moths is the sun!  I absolutely love the warmth and brightness of the summer sun; it seems to improve everyone’s mood and energy, not to mention, the sun makes the days feel extra long.  I love sitting outside with a cold drink and a book, or going for a long walk and truly enjoying this sunshine.  I hope you are all enjoying being outside in the sun this summer too!  One thing we all need to remember as we bask in the warm rays is to make sure we are protecting our skin!

Ultraviolet (UV) exposure, like that from the sun, is the most frequent cause of skin cancer, which happens to be the most common cancer in the United States.  Skin cancer CAN be prevented, but a recent study by the Center for Disease Control indicates that most Americans don’t use sunscreen regularly enough to protect themselves from the UV rays of the sun.

One of the most important things you can do to prevent skin cancer is wear sunscreen.  Sunscreen should be applied anytime you will be outside for more than 10 minutes, even on days that are slightly cloudy or cooler.

Some quick tips about sunscreen:

  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
  • Many makeup products advertise sun protection, but do not use them alone unless they have at least SPF 15.
  • Check the expiration dates! Most sunscreens are not effective after 2-3 years.


In addition to sunscreen use, you can reduce your risk for skin damage by wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when possible, wearing a hat with a brim to protect your face, neck, and ears, and seeking shade during midday hours when the sun is strongest.


Even with good sun protection, sunburns can happen, and often the symptoms don’t start until about 4 hours after sun exposure.  Sunburn symptoms typically get worse in the next day or two and last 3-5 days.  If you do get sunburned, make sure to drink lots of fluids, take Tylenol or ibuprofen as needed for pain, and use aloe or hydrocortisone for additional relief.


A history of severe sunburns can increase your risk for skin cancer.  Everyone should check their skin regularly for any indicators of skin cancer.  Keep an eye out for abnormal or asymmetrical moles, moles that have changed in color or grown in size, moles that are itchy or painful, sores that bleed and do not heal, or red patches or lumps.


Please enjoy the sun this summer, but make sure you’re doing so safely and avoiding any skin damage by following these recommendations.  Let the sun shine!