Don’t forget the sunscreen: why you need to protect your skin every time you head outside in the summer


IOWA — Summer is officially here in Iowa, with daytime high temperatures topping 90 degrees regularly. That has many Iowans heading to pools or beaches to cool off – and doctors again reminding Iowans they need to apply sunscreen EVERY TIME they head outside.

“Personally, I can say you don’t want skin cancer cut out of your head,” says Dr. Jannae Brown with UnityPoint Family Medicine, “But we know that exposure to the sun puts you at higher risk for skin cancer that’s a no brainer. We know that. And so, use what you can and that’s not just sunscreen but hats, even in this weather I know it’s really warm but if you can get some of those lighter weight longer sleeves. Try to avoid being out in the sun from like 10 to three.”

The sun has two types of ultraviolet light. UVA rays age your skin prematurely. UVB rays burn your skin. When choosing a sunscreen, be sure to choose one that offers broad spectrum protection which has UVA and UVB protection.

But what about that SPF number? You may think using an SPF 70 would allow you to stay out in the sun twice as long as an SPF 30 – but that’s not the case. A high SPF sunscreen needs to be re-applied just as often as a lower SPF option, according to Dr. Brown.

“If you’re sweating and you’re playing a sport if you’re swimming, I would say every time that you wipe off your sweat,” says Dr. Brown, “You put the sunscreen back on every time you get out of the pool, you have a break. Put that sunscreen back on.”

Does a cloudy day reduce your chances of sunburn? Of course not, says Dr. Brown. In fact, you can get a sunburn even on a snowy day – and no tan is a safe tan. “A tan is a way for your skin to tell you it’s damaged. And so I don’t care how pretty it is – it is telling you it’s damaged,” says Dr. Brown.

Already having a sunburn can also make you more susceptible to heat illnesses like heat exhaustion and heat stroke because burnt skin is already lacking in moisture.

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