Fast fact: by the time our kids turn 18, they’ll have soaked up two-thirds of the total amount of UV rays they’ll get in their lifetime. The sun may feel good and brighten your spirits, but those rays can damage unprotected skin over time. And while sun protection is always a top priority, it is just one of several ways you can care for your skin this season. Developing healthy summer skin habits is important for everyone in your family, especially as you head outside and make the most of your summer!

Sunscreen Basics

Products with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 will block 97% of UVB rays, the ones responsible for sunburns. UVA rays penetrate deeper—and it is important to understand that SPF ratings do not measure protection against UVA rays. Because both types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage your skin, it is essential to use a sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” to protect yourself against both UVA & UVB rays. Also note that some sunscreens act as physical filters and some act as chemical filters. Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (generally a thick, white paste) provides a physical barrier. Chemical filters work by converting UV energy to heat, which is then dispersed. The type of sunscreen you choose is a matter of preference and skin sensitivity—but be sure to use enough: you should have to work to rub it in! With all these options, there is a sunscreen for everyone. And make no mistake: everyone needs sun protection, no matter your age, sun history, skin type, or skin color.

Timing is Everything

The sun is the strongest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and you can get just as much UV exposure on a cloudy day as you can on a clear day. Most experts agree that it is best to limit your exposure during these hours. If you must be outside, be sure to keep up with your sunscreen, and take extra care in covering up during the midday hours. At any time of day, you should apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before spending time in the sun. Reapply generously every two hours, even hourly when swimming, boating, exercising, or sweating.

Location, Location, Location!

UVA rays not only penetrate the clouds, they can also find their way through untreated glass. Even if you’re in your car or a sunny indoor location, you should still be sure to apply your sunscreen. When you are outside, match your sun protection to your environment: water and sandy beaches will reflect UV rays, increasing your exposure, and UV levels increase at higher altitudes. Finally, spending time in a shady spot will keep you out of the direct sunlight, but the shade does not protect you from UV exposure. Where you put your sunscreen is also important. It is easy to remember to coat your arms and legs, but don’t forget your ears, nose, and lips; the part in your hair; the back of your neck; under your top or bathing suit straps; and the tops of your feet. These oft-forgotten locations are the ones that can give you a painful reminder that it’s best to be thorough when applying sunscreen.

Beyond the Summer Sun(screen)

Keeping your skin healthy in the summer sun will help it do what it needs to do: regulate your body temperature, peripheral circulation, and fluid balance—primarily through perspiration. It is important, then, to stay hydrated, clean your skin of any residual salt left behind after your sweat evaporates, and apply moisturizer, especially after exposure to salt water or chlorine, which can be drying even in the humid months. Finally, the right gear can make all the difference. Protect your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses. Invest in a hat with a wide brim to shade your face and neck. Cover exposed skin whenever practical—many lightweight fabrics have UV protection built in. Use a headband, neck buff, or bandana made of cooling fabric to stay cool and keep the sun off your neck and hairline. And moisture-wicking clothes can go a long way to keep you cool and your skin protected.

Staying skin-smart in the summer sun will help you and your family stay safe—and that will give you peace of mind as you make summertime memories together.

Adapted from

Care and Keeping of You

The Care and Keeping of You 1: The Body Book for Younger Girls by Valorie Lee Schaefer; Cara Natterson, M.D., medical consultant; illustrated by Josée Masse.
American Girl Publishing, 2015. All rights reserved.

Skin & Nails: Care Tips for Girls by Julie Williams; Illustrated by Shawn Banner.
Pleasant Company Publications, 2003. © American Girl, LLC. All Rights Reserved

American Girl magazine

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