Sunscreen: How important is it for protecting yourself against harmful rays?

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – It is more than 93 million miles away, but the sun can have a huge effect on our first line of defense.

“Skin is your biggest organ, so it’s very important. You need it for protection from the environment and to protect all of your other inside organs,” said Dr. Michel McDonald, Dermatologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

It’s not the light that causes harm, but radiation, and it comes in two forms.

“UVB, which makes your skin red, that we all see when we stay out too long. And UVA, which you actually don’t know you have because your skin does not turn red but it causes most of the damage,” said Dr. McDonald

Too much exposure without protection could lead to melanoma, and cases have been on the rise since the 1980s.

“Melanoma is a cancer of certain cells of the skin they are usually brown. So usually melanoma typically develops as a brown spot then gets darker and irregular,” said Dr. McDonald

MORE: Facts about skin cancer 

With an annual checkup and early detection, melanoma can be removed easily. The best way to lower the risk while outside is to use sunscreen and limit prolonged exposure.

With all of these SFP numbers, as well as different words on sunscreen bottles, what should you look for when choosing a sunscreen and how should you use it?

First, look for an SPF 30 or higher, this will protect you from 97 percent of radiation.

Graphic: WKRN

Next, broad spectrum helps with both UVA and UVB radiation. Use something water-resistant if you are boating or swimming.

You should also apply 15 minutes before heading outside and then reapply every two hours. It’s also important to remember to use one fluid ounce worth to cover every inch of exposed skin.

While it sounds like a lot, using sunscreen daily is beneficial for your skin.

“Less wrinkles, less aging, which are the other positive benefits,” said Dr. McDonald

Children also need extra attention as their skin is more sensitive, and can burn more easily.

As the summer gets in full swing, one of the best places to tucker your kids out is a playground.

Photo: WKRN

Before playing outside or spending time outdoors, you should put sunscreen on your kids. While it will protect them from the sun, it won’t protect them from a thermal burn from hot surfaces like a ladder or a slide.

“Most of the time that is not a deep burn, it’s a superficial burn but in order to stop getting it infected, or stop it from darkening as it heals, you want to keep it moisturized and keep it protected from the sun,” said Dr. McDonald

It’s also important to remember your pets during the hot summer months.

While we wear shoes outside, they don’t and paws could easily burn on surfaces such as asphalt.

“You can definitely get second, third degree burns on paws which is their main course of mobility,” said Lauren Bluestone, Director of Metro Animal Care and Control.

Before their first step, test out the temperature for pet.

“We go by a 10 second rule; you place your hand on the asphalt for 10 seconds that will give you an indication of what your animal is going to feel. So if it’s hot for you, it’s not a good idea to have them out,” said Bluestone.

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