Staying Safe From Sunburns

With its warm weather and longer days, summer can be a highly enjoyable part of the year. Unfortunately, all that time in the sun can result in sunburns on exposed parts of the body. Picking a good sunscreen, however, can allow you to enjoy the summer sun while keeping your skin safe.

Two Kinds of Problems

Sunburns can be blamed on excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, causing the afflicted area to take on a red color in a short period of time, usually a few hours. Over the next 24 to 36 hours, the pain caused by these burns tends to get worse. Depending on how bad the burn is, recovering from a sunburn might take as little as a few days or as long as two weeks.

First-degree sunburns impact just the top layer of skin, commonly referred to as the epidermis. Lasting three to five days, these burns are characterized by dry, red and irritated skin. The damaged area could also be hot to touch. Second-degree burns are a bigger problem, reaching the dermis, the layer underneath the epidermis. The skin takes on a deep red hue, and experiences swelling and blistering. Not surprisingly, such burns can be quite painful, and may also induce both fever and nausea. The most alarming aspect of second-degree burns is that they increase your risk of skin cancer.

Picking the Right Sunscreen

Perhaps the best thing you can do to keep your skin shielded from UV rays is to apply sunscreen.  However, some sunscreens are better than others. First, when shopping for sunscreen, try to find one that offers “broad spectrum protection.” This means that the sunscreen in question should protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Overexposure to UV rays could increase your risk of both premature aging and skin cancer.

You’re probably familiar with the “SPF” numbers displayed on sunscreen bottles. Generally speaking, a higher SPF number is better for your skin; for example, consider that a SPF 30 sunscreen will block out 97 percent of UVB rays, whereas 99 percent of these rays are blocked by SPF 300 sunscreens.

Finally, try to purchase a water resistant sunscreen if you plan on swimming. Even when exposed to water or sweat, these products are able to successfully block UV rays from 40 to 80 minutes. However, remember to reapply this sunscreen every two hours. If you play sports outdoors, this same rule also applies.

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