When the sun comes out in Washington, we all want to enjoy it while it lasts. Sunscreen is an effective tool to protect our skin from harmful UV rays while we’re out having fun.
Quick tips on how to use sunscreen to help prevent sunburn
Like all tools, sunscreen works best when it’s used correctly.
- Use SPF 30 or higher.
- Use one labeled “Broad Spectrum”—they block more of the sun’s harmful rays.
- Use a water-resistant sunscreen if you’re swimming or sweating a lot.
- Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before going out in the sun.
- Reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Use enough to fully cover yourself. It takes enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass to cover most adults.
And take care with sunscreen and insect repellent! The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using two different products instead of a combo. Put your sunscreen on, then put on your bug spray, and follow the instructions on the labels.
Note: You may have heard the myth that people with dark skin don’t need to wear sunscreen, or don’t need to apply as much. This is not true. Your melanin is beautiful, but it won’t protect you from sunburns. Everyone needs to practice safe sun habits, including using sunscreen.
Safe sun habits are about more than what SPF you use. “Sunscreen is only one tool to protect yourself,” Community Health Plan of Washington’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Sherman explains. “Others include UV-protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses, and avoiding sun exposure during the hours of 10 am to noon, when the sun is most intense.”
If you do get sunburned
- Get out of the sun as soon as you can.
- Take cool showers or baths.
- Apply soothing lotion with aloe vera.
- Drink lots of water.
- If you have a low fever or headache, go lie down in a cool place and take a mild pain reliever, like Tylenol or Advil.
Some sunburns can be serious. Call your doctor if you get a higher fever, start having vision problems, can’t keep fluid down, get an infection in any blisters, or if any symptoms get worse.
- Learn about Heatstroke and Heat Exhaustion in our CHPW blog post here
- Check Other Heat-Related Illnesses from Healthwise