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Saving Your Skin

Simple precautions can protect it from the sun

SUNDAY, July 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- With skin cancer rates soaring, protecting your skin from the sun has never been more important.

And there's much more you can do than simply staying in the shade.

Start with a sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a product with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and applying it generously at least 20 to 30 minutes before going out into the sun.

Make sure to cover not only your legs, arms, face and neck, but also your feet (if you're wearing sandals) and hands. If you're going to be swimming or perspiring heavily, it's a good idea to reapply sunscreen, because toweling yourself dry can rub off the previous application.

Hats are a great way to keep the sun off your face. But if you're using a baseball cap, don't forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your neck and ears.

If you think you don't need protection because it's cloudy or overcast, think again. Experts say the sun's harmful UV rays can pass through clouds, and even water.

Be especially careful in places ranging from the beach to snow. Sand, water and snow can reflect sunlight and increase the amount of UV radiation you receive. In such high-glare settings, you should wear a higher SPF and protect your nose and lips with zinc oxide.

If you have sensitive skin, it's important to read sunscreen labels before using them. Even if products claim to be "hypoallergenic" or "dermatologist tested," some people may still have some skin irritation. So make sure to apply a small amount on your skin for three days; if your skin doesn't turn red or become tender, the product is probably OK to use.

More information

Another good way to protect your skin from the sun is to check the current UV index forecast for your area.

SOURCES: American Academy of Dermatology, American Cancer Society
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