The Sun and Your Skin

The Six Skin Types

There are six different skin types based according to the amount of pigmentation in your skin and how it reacts to sun exposure (whether it burns easily or tans). The types are semi-subjective and it’s possible that you won’t meet all of the characteristics of any one type. In those cases you should go with the one that best describes you. However, once you know your skin type, it can help assess your risk level and then arm you with the tools you need to protect your skin.

  • Type 1 - Always burns, never tans. Very fair skin with red or blond hair and freckles.
  • Type 2 - Burns easily, tans minimally. Fair skin.
  • Type 3 - Sometimes burns, gradually tans.
  • Type 4 - Minimum burning, always tans. White, with medium pigmentation.
  • Type 5 - Seldom burns, always tans. Medium to heavy pigmentation.
  • Type 6 - Never burns, tans very darkly. African Americans as well as others with heavy pigmentation.

10 Tips for Sun Safety

The best defense against getting too much harmful exposure to the sun is a combination of different practices. Here are 10 tips to keep in mind.

  • 1. Minimize sun exposure during the hours of 10AM to 2PM (11AM to 3PM daylight-saving time) when the sun is strongest. Try to plan your outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon.
  • 2. Wear a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants when exposed to the sun. Choose tightly woven material for greater protection from the sun's rays.
  • 3. Apply a sunscreen every day before exposure to the sun, and reapply frequently and liberally, at least every 2 hours, as long as you stay in the sun. The sunscreen should always be reapplied after swimming or perspiring heavily, since products differ in their degree of water resistance. We recommend sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or greater.
  • 4. Use a sunscreen with a higher SPF during high-altitude activities such as mountain climbing and skiing. At high altitudes, where there is less atmosphere to absorb the sun's rays, your risk of burning is greater. The sun is also stronger near the equator where the sun's rays strike the earth most directly.
  • 5. Don't forget to use your sunscreen on overcast days. The sun's rays are as damaging to your skin on cloudy, hazy days as they are on sunny days.
  • 6. Photosensitivity -- an increased sensitivity to sun exposure -- is a possible side effect to certain medications, drugs, cosmetics, and birth control pills. Some people are also sensitive to ingredients found in traditional sunscreens. If you develop a reaction after using a sunscreen, consult with your dermatologist. He or she may recommend using a sunblock instead of a sunscreen to minimize the chances of this kind of reaction.
  • 7. Beware of reflective surfaces. Sand, snow, concrete, and water can reflect more than half the sun's rays onto your skin. Sitting in the shade does not guarantee protection from sunburn.
  • 8. Keep your infants out of the sun. Begin using sunscreen on children at 6 months of age, and then allow sun exposure with moderation.
  • 9. Teach children sun protection early. Sun damage occurs with each unprotected sun exposure and accumulates over the course of a lifetime.
  • 10. Conduct regular skin self-examinations using the ABCD's

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