It's that time of year - remember to wear sunscreen

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The warm weather has (finally) arrived, and with it comes our glorious Lowcountry sunshine. It's time to go outside and have some fun.

Soon, many of us will be spending lots of daylight hours at Harbour Town Golf Links watching the 50th RBC Heritage. We are likely to be so excited about the excellent golf, the beautiful fashions and the social factor that we overlook another important factor: SPF or sun protection factor.

You don't have to be a sun worshiper to be overexposed to the sun's damaging rays.

Whenever you are outdoors, for golf or other sports, working in the yard or having lunch al fresco, remember to protect your skin with sunscreen.

Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is now known to be a major risk factor in the development of skin cancer. It also increases the appearance of aging.

Q. What type of sunscreen should I use?

A. It depends on how much sun exposure you're anticipating. In all cases you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen offering protection against both UVA and UVB rays.

Q. What is SPF and how do I know what number I need?

A. SPF is an abbreviation for "Sun Protection Factor." The SPF numbers (such as 15, 30, or 50) indicate how long a topical sunscreen remains effective on the skin.

To figure out how long you can stay in the sun with a given SPF, use this equation: Minutes to burn without sunscreen x SPF number = maximum sun exposure time

For example, if you burn after 10 minutes of sun exposure, an SPF of 15 will allow you to be in the sun for up to 150 minutes without burning.

Q. Is there a right and wrong way to apply sunscreen?

A. Proper application is arguably the biggest problem with sunscreen. Simply put, if sunscreen is not used properly, it doesn't work well.

To ensure that you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply one ounce - about a shot glass full. Always apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside. This allows time for it to penetrate or bind to the skin. Remember to put it on the tops of your feet, ears, back of the neck and your hands.

Q. What can I do to be sure that I'm maximizing sunscreen usage?

A. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen. Re-apply sunscreen every two hours until sunset - even if the label promises "all-day" protection.

It should be re-applied after swimming or sweating, or if it has been rubbed off.

Always check the label for an expiration date. Sunscreen ingredients lose their effectiveness over time, so expired sunscreen must be replaced.

  1. What if sun damage has already been done? I grew up at the beach and, even though I now use sunscreen, I have rough textured skin and fine lines around my eyes.
  2. While prevention is always the best course of action there are several things that can be done to help reverse some of the sun's damage.

If you have any concerns about potential sun damage, call a dermatologist for a consultation.

Dr. Oswald Lightsey Mikell, certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, is the owner of Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry.

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