Saving Your Skin

Saving Your Skin

How to prevent sun damage while enjoying summer vacation.


Wearing sunscreen offers the best protection from sun damage.

August approaches and many head out for sun drenched vacations with a skin-baring wardrobe. This much anticipated time of year doesn't come without danger, primarily in the form of sunburn which can lead to skin damage, skin cancer, wrinkles and dark spots. Skincare gurus offer suggestions for protecting skin without sacrificing time outside.

“Sunscreen is the best protection from the sun,” said Cheryl A. Oetjen, DNP, FNP-BC, assistant professor of nursing at George Mason University. “This can be from lotions that are SPF 30 or higher or from skin-protective clothing. Wearing a hat can also protect your face to some degree. Sunglasses should also be worn.”

To maximize the effectiveness of sunscreen, Oetjen advises being aware of some of the most commonly made application mistakes. “Ideally sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure,” she said. “This gives it time to soak into the skin. Avoiding the water for this time is also important.”

Avoid the sun between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when it’s most intense and use at least one ounce of sunscreen per application, says Oetjen. “The important part of applying sunscreen is ensuring that you are using enough,” she said. “Fair complexions, red hair and blonde hair often are indicators of a higher risk of sunburn, so it’s important to reapply often.”

Make sunscreen part of one’s daily skincare regimen, advises Colleen Sanders, RN, FNP, Marymount University in Arlington. “The recommendation is that you wear sunscreen every day if you’re going to be outside even for a short period of time,” she said. “It should be part of your everyday routine.”

Relying solely on the SPF found in some cosmetics like foundation or powder is unwise, says dermatologist Dr. Lisa Bronstein. “Makeup doesn’t necessarily provide the protection that it claims to provide,” she said. “There are a lot of tinted sunscreens out now that match a variety of skin tones and also give amazing protection from sun damage.”

Wearing sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection as well as a hat will help prevent damage, says Sanders. “Common areas that people often forget to cover, and where we often find skin cancer, are the tops of ears and the backs of their hands,” she said “These are places where people forget to put sunscreen.”

“Make sure the most sensitive areas are covered … these areas include the top of the ears, lips [and] the nose, added Oetjen. “Zinc oxide can be applied to sensitive areas.” 

Infants who are younger than six months old should have limited exposure to the sun, says Oetjen. “The FDA has not approved a sunscreen for infants under 6 months so it is best for them to stay in the shade and wear sun protective clothing and hat,” she said. “The skin of infants is thinner and more sensitive to the sun and sunscreen.”