Health Watch -- Sunny Days

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

It's time to head outdoors and enjoy the warmer weather. But make sure you protect your skin.

As good as the sun feels on your face, it's not good for your skin. Dermatologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that the ultraviolet radiation in the sun's rays can cause mutations in skin cells that may lead to cancer. Sun exposure also accelerates the aging process in your skin.

What can you do to protect yourself from cancer and look younger, longer? Wear sunscreen, and use it properly. Dr. Sarah Weitzul, a UT Southwestern dermatologist, says proper sunscreen use is the key to saving your skin from the sun.

She has some tips for making the most of your sunscreen. First, put on sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go outdoors. For sunscreen to be effective, it needs to be fully absorbed into your skin. Also apply sunscreen liberally. Too thin a coat and you won't get full protection. Re-apply sunscreen after you've been in the water, if you've been sweating or if you've been out in the sun for several hours.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Check the label and look for products that contain avobenzone, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide.

Wear sunscreen every day, whether or not you'll be basking in the sun. If you're only going to be out for a short time, use sunscreen with an SPF of 15. If you'll be out longer than about 15 minutes, use SPF 30.