Summer skin care.

Protect your skin this summer to avoid sunburns and lower your risk of skin cancer.

by Nashville General Hospital
sunglasses at beach

Exposure to sunlight has many positive effects. The sun can help some people with seasonal depression. Sunlight can also help the body make vitamin D, an important nutrient for bones and general health. The separation of day and night can help our sleeping patterns. However, sunlight also exposes our bodies to harmful UV rays that can damage eyes, the skin and increase our risk for skin cancer.

“Everyone runs the risk of damaging their skin from the sun, especially those with fair skin,” says Dr. Monica Davis, a Family Medicine specialist. “While the risk for sun damage may be lower for people with darker skin, people of all races and skin color can benefit from proper skin care to lower their risk of skin cancer.”

One of the best ways to protect your skin is to limit your exposure to the sun. This includes:

  • Avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are the most intense.
  • Keep your skin covered . Wear long sleeve shirts and long pants, hats with a wide brim and UV400 rated sunglasses to protect your eyes. Look for clothing specifically designed to provide protection from the sun. Fabric with a UPF rating greater than 15 is rated to block UV rays. A high UPF rating of 50 allows less than 2% UV transmission.
  • Wear “broad spectrum” sunscreen every time you are in the sun for an extended period of time. Reapply it every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Broad spectrum sunscreens block the suns damaging UVB rays, which cause sunburn and plays a key role in developing skin cancer, and provides protection against UVA rays that causes skin damage. To block approximately 97% of UVB rays, look for an SPF rating of 30. An SPF rating of 50 blocks approximately 98% of UVB rays. Follow the label to make certain you are using it properly.

New parents should talk with a health care professional before using any sunscreen product on an infant younger than six months.

Dealing with sunburn

Too much UV light exposure can cause the skin to burn. If you notice your skin getting red or sore go inside or find another way to get out of the sun. Depending on how bad the burn, you may experience several symptoms:

  • Mild sunburns typically result in redness and some pain and can last three to five days.
  • Moderate sunburns can leave skin red, swollen, peeling and hot to the touch. This type of burn can take about a week to heal completely.
  • Severe sunburns can cause painful blistering or very red skin and can take up to two weeks to fully recover.

You may also experience headache, fever, nausea and fatigue.

There is no cure for sunburn. However, you can treat the symptoms. 

  • Drink water. Your skin loses moisture when it burns. Drinking water helps keep you hydrated and replenishes lost fluids.
  • Use aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen to relieve pain, headache and reduce fever.
  • A cool bath and cool towels on the burn area may provide additional comfort.
  • Over-the-counter moisturizing creams with aloe or 1% hydrocortisone cream may help the healing process.
  • Keep blisters lightly covered and let them heal naturally. Do not try to break them as this will slow the healing process and may lead to infection. If they do break, cover them with an antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream. 
  • Stay out of the sun until the burn has healed.

You should seek medical attention if you have:

  • Severe sunburn covering more than 15% of the body.
  • Dehydration.
  • A fever greater than 101 degrees.
  • Extreme pain lasting more than 48 hours.

To get the most enjoyment from being outside this summer, remember to take steps to protect your skin. Call 615-341-4419 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Davis.

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should talk with your primary care physician or other qualified medical professionals regarding diagnosis and treatment of a health condition.