PARKERSBURG - As the heat kicks up and people spend more and more time in the sun, the threat of not only sunburns, but also more serious damage comes to the forefront.
"The first thing I like people to understand is sunscreen is only one part of good sun protection," said Dr. B. Asher Louden, a dermatologist with Mountain State Dermatology in Vienna.
Louden and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend protecting skin by staying in the shade and wearing protective clothing including long-sleeve shirts and pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Sunscreen is a great protectant for skin from sunburn, early aging and cancer, but users must be aware the best ones offer broad-spectrum protection, must have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater and be water resistant to be effective, said a local dermatologist.
"Shade and covering the skin is much more important than sunscreen, which protects the areas you can't cover," said Louden.
Protection against the sun's rays is important for many reasons, including reducing the risk of skin cancer as well as to prevent early signs of aging.
"By using sunscreens and being covered, you are keeping yourself looking younger, longer along with staying healthy," Louden said.
According to the AAD, everyone is prone to skin cancer with more than 2 millions people diagnosed annually, many of which could have been prevented had the people used protection from the sun.
The most effective sunscreens are broad-spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB rays, have a sun protectant factor (SPF) of 30 or greater and are water resistant to do the best job.
Sunscreen also needs to be reapplied every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
"Just because the sun is covered by clouds doesn't mean ultraviolet rays can't get to you," Louden said.
Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun's rays can penetrate skin, according to the AAD.
One mistake people make when using sunscreen is not using enough, said Louden.
"People tend to put on a lot less sunscreen than they need to and that can cause problems," he said.
Most people only apply between 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen, so when applying, put on more than you think necessary, Louden added.
The guideline recommended by the AAD is "one ounce, enough to fill a shot glass," to cover exposed areas of the body. That amount depends on body size.
Sunscreen also needs to be applied to dry skin at least 15 minutes before going outdoors.
"People need to cover areas they wouldn't normally consider," Louden said. "We always remember to cover our arms, legs and backs, but we must remember to also apply sunscreen to hands, feet, ears and lips."