Warm weather is now coming in, and with it - hopefully - comes the urge to get outside and have some fun. We are all for that. When you’re outside, you’re being active, social and feeling good!

Let’s just be sure that we apply some sunscreen while we’re out enjoying ourselves.

Overexposure to the sun will cause sunburn, premature skin aging, wrinkling and can lead to melanoma (skin cancer). We still want to enjoy the outdoors - but let’s enjoy it in a safe way!

How does it work? Well, in general terms, sunlight contains ultraviolet rays - usually described as ‘UV’ rays’. And it’s these rays (and other similar related rays) that can cause the issues. Some UV is fine and good, but too much - that’s where the problems come in.

You’re at a higher risk of UV radiation when you’re closer to the equator (because you’re closer to the sun there), at higher elevations (same reason - also, thinner air) and during peak daylight hours. Also, reflections from snow, sand or water also increase UV exposure.

The practical things to do to lessen your chances of over exposure - wear hats, find shade when you can and don’t stay out in the sunlight for extended periods of time. (Give your skin a break!) 

And if you’re going to be in the sun, apply sunscreen! 

Here’s the best practices for sunscreen:

- Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going out. Give it time to absorb into the skin.

- Apply it again after exercise or swimming.

- Apply it often!

What kind of sunscreen should you get?

- Find a broad-spectrum sunscreen and make sure it is at least SPF 15.

- Read the label! Find a waterproof brand if you’re going to be sweating or swimming.

- Some people are sensitive to para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), so find a brand that doesn’t have that.

- If you ever have a bad skin reaction to a brand, use a different one the next time. The different brands use different chemical mixes and you could have a reaction to one brand and not another.

- More expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better!

- And yes, sunscreen does expire! Check the expiration date!

We at UAB Medical West want you to get out, be active and have fun this Spring and Summer. Just be prudent and safe in your activities!