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With the summer in full swing, many of us are looking forward to spending our days soaking up the sun.
Before you rush out to get some fresh air or take in vitamin D the old-fashioned way, there are a few things to keep in mind to protect your skin from harmful UV rays and skin damage.
"The key is to enjoy your summer," says Dr. Cheryl Rosen, dermatologist at Toronto Western Hospital. "But protect yourself as best you can while doing so."
We checked in with Dr. Rosen to learn five tips for protecting yourself against the sun this summer whether you're taking in an event around the city or opting for a weekend away at the cottage.
Embrace the shade
One of the easiest ways to stay safe while enjoying the outdoors is to seek shade. In a place where there is no shade, bring your own. Bring an umbrella or a fold-up tent if you're going to be sitting outside for long periods of time.
"Trees are also great," Dr. Rosen says. "But there isn't always a tree where you want a tree and not all trees are created equal. If you can see a lot of light through the branches you're getting UV, so try to plan ahead as much as possible to bring your own protection."
Bringing a hat is part of bringing your own shade and helps shield your face. Wearing UV protected sunglasses is also important because UV can damage the eyes.
Timing is everything
If taking in Pan Am or Parapan Am Games events are part of your summer plans try to plan to go early in the morning or later in the day when UV rays are lower. Even when it's cloudy UV gets through.
"Of course some of the events are going to be at noon, so for the athletes and for the spectators who don't have a choice protect yourself as best as you can."
Regardless of the summer plans you may have, protect your skin by covering up with a cool layer of clothing, wearing a hat, and be generous with lathering on sunscreen – most people only use half the amount of sunscreen used in SPF testing, says Dr. Rosen.
Be keen with your sunscreen
Apply sunscreen for skin that's exposed and can't be covered. Even if you think you're going to be in the shade be proactive and apply sunscreen before you leave your house.
"If you forget don't think, 'Oh my gosh I didn't put it on 20 minutes before coming outside,'" Dr. Rosen says. "It works as soon as you put it on. So whenever you remember - put it on. It's also recommended you re-apply 20 minutes after you applied the first time to make sure you get any spots you may have missed."
Dr. Rosen recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. You have to choose the sunscreen that feels right for you. Some people don't like the feeling of a cream, so a spray is good as long as you remember to rub it in.
"Don't forget about the back of your neck and the tops of your ears and feet," she adds.
Not about that base tan
"Base tan is not a term dermatologists use," says Dr. Rosen. "It's getting damage to try to prevent further damage."
Studies conducted about how much protection a tan offers have indicated it only provides an SPF of two to four, Dr. Rosen adds.
Certain groups of people have sensitive skin, which makes them more susceptible to damage or skin cancer. People with freckles; people who burn and never tan; people who have a family history of skin cancer; and people who are on immunosuppressive drugs and certain medications that make you more sun sensitive should be particularly mindful when going out in the sun.
And if you're thinking of getting in on the latest trend of "sunburn art"- think again.
The new social media trend has been on the rise this summer and involves strategically using sunscreen lotion as a means to create a do-it-yourself temporary "tattoo", but with sunburns. The recent gain in popularity led the Skin Cancer Foundation to release a
statement about the DNA damage to the skin and other dangers.
"Increasing the amount of sun-induced skin damage to create patterns on the skin is just a terrible idea," Dr. Rosen says.
Before you reach for Aloe
"There is no scientific evidence that shows Aloe Vera heals sunburns," says Dr. Rosen.
Cool compresses, moisturizers, pain medications or anti-inflammatories, and topical steroids can help with symptomatic relief.