Tips and technologies for keeping skin safe in the summer sun

If you\'re overexposed to the sun, sunburn is actually the least of your worries. But there are ways to protect yourself. (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — After a winter that would not end, the first big beach and pool weekend of the year is finally here. And that means it’s time to slather on the sunscreen.

Actually, it is important all year long, since the ultra-violet rays of the sun reach the ground no matter the season. But in the warm days of late spring and summer, the sunlight tends to be more intense — and water only intensifies the effect.

The Centers for Disease Control says the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for sun exposure in the continental United States. The CDC also warns that this time of year — the last days of spring and the first weeks of summer — is when those UV rays are most intense in North America.

Dr. Andrea Morris, a dermatologist with the GW Medical Faculty Associates, says the most important way to protect yourself against the sun is to use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher every day. She says, “If you are going to be out in the sun for extended periods, reapplying sunscreen every two hours is what we recommend.”

That is especially true when it comes to protecting children from the sun’s rays. The big exception is newborns, who cannot tolerate the ingredients in sunscreen.

Morris, the mother of a new baby boy, says sunscreen isn’t recommended for infants six months and younger. She will keep her baby out of the sun this summer, using an umbrella for shade when needed and making sure he wears a wide brimmed hat.

There is also a new, more high-tech way to protect kids and adults. Timna Understein, a two-time melanoma survivor, is the blogger who launched the Facebook page “Respect the Rays.” She says some clothing companies are creating garments with sunblock built right into the fabric.

She says they are a boon for people who don’t want to deal with the hassles of applying and reapplying sunscreen, and are a good option for kids. Understein says hats and sunglasses are also a must. And she advises the best sunscreens are those that provide both UVA and UVB protection and are titanium or mineral-based.

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