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Much of summer’s fun comes from being outside, but keep in mind the danger of too much exposure to the sun’s rays.

Ultraviolet light from sunlight helps our skin produce vitamin D, which the body needs, but UV light can also cause skin irritation, cancer, aging and wrinkling. The impact that UV has on our skin is relentless against all skin colors or types, but tends to be more harmful if you have pale skin.

Wearing clothing that covers the skin offers the best solution to prevent this damage. Tight-knit yarns and dark colors tend to offer the best protection. Let’s be honest, though — it just feels more fun and comfortable to wear less clothing in summer. For sun-exposed areas, sunscreen works best.

Sunscreen comes in different chemical combinations and different Sun Protection Factor (SPF) ratings. Both organic and inorganic sunscreens are safe to apply on your skin. Whatever your sunscreen’s ingredients, choose one labeled “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum sunscreens are approved for coverage of both types of UV light: UVA and UVB. UVA rays play a role in skin cancer and in premature skin aging and wrinkling. UVB rays play an even greater role in causing skin cancer.

Choose a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher, especially if you are more light-skinned. Lower SPF ratings just don’t block enough UV radiation to be as effective. Once the SPF rating is 30 or more, the cancer-prevention benefits start to level out. SPF 50 is only about 1 percent more effective in protecting against UV rays than SPF 30. But protection from redness and skin irritation doubles with the higher rating.

Sunscreen labels may also indicate their resistance to moisture from swimming or sweating. No sunscreen is water proof. “Water resistant” sunscreens must specify whether they protect the skin for 40 or 80 minutes.

Most people do not apply enough sunscreen. You should use about seven teaspoons to cover your entire body, or about one teaspoon for each arm. You should apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside or getting wet, and re-apply every 2 hours while you’re in the sun.

When you go outside this summer, don’t forget to apply that sunscreen, and apply it liberally. Use an SPF of 30 or higher, and if you will be playing in water, use a water-resistant sunscreen. Enjoy the beautiful weather and try not to break any bones while you’re having fun — although that cast will likely provide great UV protection.

Dr. Justin Watkins, a physician with the Family Medicine Residency at RiverStone Health, can be reached at 247.3306.

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