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Preparing Your Skin for a Day in the Sun

Before leaving your home for a day of outdoor activity, take appropriate precautions to ensure that your skin is well-protected. Susan Chon, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at MD Anderson recommends gathering the following items before heading outdoors.

Sun Protection Checklist

  • Sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater
  • Lip balm with SPF 30
  • Hat with a brim or cap
  • Long-sleeved shirt (preferably sun-protective clothing)
  • Sunglasses with UV protection

“These are great items to keep handy in your bag to prepare for the sun as it intensifies through out the day,” Chon said.

Application Time Line

Once your bags are packed for a day in the sun, you're ready to go. Chon suggests the following guidelines on when to best use these items.

Morning: 8 – 10 a.m.

Apply Sunscreen with SPF 30

  • Apply generously and evenly, at least 30 minutes before sun exposure
  • Don’t forget sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours
  • Wear a hat, sunglasses and lip balm

Midday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (hottest time of the day)

Seek Shade and Wear Protective Clothing

  • Sit under an umbrella for extra protection
  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt with your hat and sunglasses

Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen and lip balm every two hours

Afternoon: 3 – 5 p.m.

Reapply Sunscreen with SPF 30

  • Keep wearing your hat and sunglasses
  • Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen and lip balm every two hours

“Remember, if you are sweating or swimming, you may need to reapply more often,” Chon said. Avoid reflective surfaces such as water, sand, snow and concrete. “You can burn from indirect exposure to the sun, too,” Chon said.

Sun-Protective Gear Provides Added Defense

While many people usually carry sunscreen and sunglasses when spending time in the sun, few are aware of the availability of sun-protective clothing that can offer even greater protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

According to Chon, a long-sleeved shirt may offer sun protection; however, most light-weight cotton shirts used in the summer don’t offer more than UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 10. “Some companies offer an extensive line of sun protective clothing, which can provide as much as UPF 50,” Chon said.

Choosing the right sunglasses also can provide added UV protection. Choose wrap-around sunglasses that absorb at least 99% of UV rays. “These sunglasses help protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes,” Chon said. 

Chon recommends speaking with a dermatologist to get more information on sun-protective gear.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center