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Many skin changes, such as skin cancer, wrinkles, and age spots are caused by exposure to the sun. This is because the damage caused by the sun is permanent.

Sun Exposure and Skin Changes

The two types of sun rays that can injure the skin are ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA affects the deep layers of skin. UVB damages the outermost layers of the skin and causes sunburn.

The best way to lower your risk of skin changes is to protect your skin from the sun. This includes using sunscreen and other protective measures.

Sun-protective Clothing

Adults and children should wear clothing to protect skin against the sun. This is in addition to applying sunscreen. Suggestions for clothing include:

Sunscreen Guidelines

It is important not to rely on sunscreen alone for sun protection. Wearing sunscreen is also not a reason to spend more time in the sun.

The best sunscreens to choose include:

Avoid products that combine sunscreen and insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied often. Insect repellent applied too often could be harmful.

If your skin is sensitive to the chemicals in sunscreen products, choose a mineral sunscreen such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.

Less expensive products that have the same ingredients work as well as expensive ones.

When applying sunscreen:

Sun Protection and Children

While in the sun, children should be well covered with clothing, sunglasses, and hats. Children should be kept out of the sun during peak sunlight hours.

Sunscreens are safe for most toddlers and children. Use products that contain zinc and titanium, as they contain fewer chemicals that may irritate young skin.

Do not use sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months without talking to your doctor or pediatrician first.

References

DeLeo VA. Sunscreens and photoprotection. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:chap 132.

Dinulos JGH. Light-related diseases and disorders of pigmentation. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 19.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration website. Tips to stay safe in the sun: from sunscreen to sunglasses. www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/tips-stay-safe-sun-sunscreen-sunglasses. Updated May 24, 2021. Accessed July 26, 2021.

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Review Date: 6/19/2021  

Reviewed By: Ramin Fathi, MD, FAAD, Director, Phoenix Surgical Dermatology Group, Phoenix, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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