After months of unrelenting rain and thick cloud cover, the first signs of sun beckon like a siren song. You think, just this once, I'll forgo the sunscreen and get my healthy glow on. What harm could a few UV rays do?
"Plenty," says Yahn-Kun Chiou, M.D., family medicine physician from Providence Medical Group – Battle Ground. "You should arm yourself with the basics to protect your skin, in and out of the sun."
• Sunscreen and sunblock : They do not work in the same way, and skin experts recommend you slather on both before spending any time in the sun. Apply sunscreen first. Sunblock reflects the most ultraviolet light, and what penetrates the sunblock can be absorbed by sunscreen.
• SPF: SPF, or sun protection factor, measures a product's ability to shield the sun's harmful rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an SPF of 30 or greater. For your face, apply a marble-sized amount, and for your body, a golf ball-sized amount. The sun's rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so re-apply every two hours during this time.
• For children: The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses the use of any sunscreen for children. Outfit your children with hats, sunglasses and rash guards, or "rashies" -- specially made swim shirts that offer added protection from the sun -- and keep children 6 months and younger out of the sun altogether.
• Fatten up -- the right way: A diet too low in fat can leave your skin looking unhealthy. Choose foods rich in polyunsaturated fats first -- such as poultry, seeds, legumes and fish; then monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, nuts and a variety of oils, including olive, peanut, canola, sunflower or sesame.
• Get your beauty sleep: Getting seven to eight hours of sleep nightly can help your body regenerate and rejuvenate. Too little sleep can produce stress hormones, which can speed up the aging process, cause dehydration, which can lead to a dull complexion, and lead to greater skin sensitivity.
• Sunshine in your diet
Science shows you need vitamin D to thrive, but experts suggest getting it through your diet, instead of from the sun. Fortified foods and drink, as well as supplements, can energize your body without exposing your skin to sun damage.
• Know your body and history
Conduct regular skin self-exams, if something looks suspicious, see your health care provider or dermatologist. You have a greater risk of developing skin cancer if you've been sunburned more than five times in your lifetime, have fair skin, or have an abundance of freckles or moles.
Patti Atkins is public relations manager at Providence Portland Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.