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It may be hard to believe that the fall season starts in just a few weeks. Before cooler weather arrives, you and your family might be taking every opportunity you can to enjoy time outdoors on sunny days. While you may spend a lot of time planning picnic food and fun activities, how much time do you spend thinking about how you’ll protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays?

When you spend time in the sun without protection, it can lead to sunburn, wrinkles, freckles, pigmentation issues, or other potentially more serious skin conditions. Fortunately, protecting your body’s outermost layer can be easier when you keep a few helpful tips in mind.

Tip #1: Wear sunscreen!

Dermatologists recommend always wearing a thin layer of sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and with a label that clearly states that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays — both of which can cause serious and irreparable damage to your skin. Often, these sunscreens are referred to as “broad spectrum.” It’s also recommended that you apply the sunscreen 15–20 minutes before going outside so that it has time to absorb into your skin.

When spending time outdoors in a pool (or after sweating), it’s recommended that you reapply another layer of sunscreen after an hour to an hour and a half. Sweat and water from a pool could cause the sunscreen to wash or wear off and not act as effectively as it could.

Also, there are sunscreens made specifically for your face. Many cosmetic products contain ingredients to provide UV protection. If you’re planning on spending time outdoors and also planning to wear makeup, consider using one of these products.

Tip #2: Protect your eyes.

Invest in a pair of sunglasses that offer UV protection. Many “fashion” shades are just that — designed for their appearance only. When purchasing a new pair, check for a sticker on the frame or a description on the tag that indicates that the sunglasses protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Do you wear contacts? Consider purchasing contact lenses with UV protection. And glasses with transition lenses will conveniently turn dark outdoors and light indoors. Keep in mind that even though sunglasses or transition lenses cover a large portion of your eye area, you still need to wear a thin layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen when you plan to spend time outdoors.

Tip #3: Make note of any changes to your skin.

We cannot offer medical advice, so consult a medical professional regarding your skin. It’s generally wise to routinely check skin for any changes in color or texture, and to keep an eye on any new moles or patches of freckles. If the moles/freckles begin to itch, become discolored, or start to bleed, speak with a doctor, as changes in skin could be a warning sign of a serious medical problem.

Tip #4: Try to avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Try to avoid or limit sun exposure at these times of the day, when the sun is its strongest. If you must spend time outdoors, be sure that you apply your thin layer of sunscreen before heading outside. Reapply it as needed throughout the day, and also make sure that you wear protective clothing. This includes sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat that will provide shade to your face, and long-sleeve shirts (if possible) to prevent overexposure to your arms.

Many sporting goods stores sell clothing that is labeled as providing UV protection. If you are someone who regularly spends a lot of time outdoors, it may be smart to invest in this type of clothing to stay protected.

Tip #5: NEVER use tanning beds.

While we all want to look our best regardless of what season it is, it’s NOT recommended that you use a tanning bed to add some color to your skin. Instead, consider using a self-tanning product that does not expose your skin to potentially damaging light rays.

Want more helpful tips and advice?

If you have questions or concerns regarding the best way(s) to protect your skin when spending time outdoors, speak with your doctor. He or she will be able to recommend specific sunscreens and practices to help you keep your skin healthy.