Sun Safety This Summer

Summer break is around the corner! Kids will enjoy their time outdoors, families will go on long-anticipated and much-appreciated vacations, and grandparents will be enjoying some family time with their grandkids at their family reunions. Pharmacies and stores will be stocking their shelves full of skin care products if they already havent done so, but which product is best for each person? What if theyre on medication which drugs are more likely to increase their skins sensitivity to the sun and therefore their chance of getting sunburned?

While staying out of the sun or wearing protective clothing is the most effective at preventing sunburn, thats not always possible. Sunscreens contain specific drugs used to block ultraviolet (UV) rays: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays travel down to the inner-most skin layer (the dermis) and are most likely to cause earlier aging of the skin/wrinkles while UVB rays travel only to the outer-most skin layer (the epidermis). In order for sunscreen to work properly, sunscreen products should protect against UVA and UVB rays and are marked broad spectrum.

Theres also the SPF number, or sun protection factor, which is used to measure the sunscreens ability to protect your skin. For example, a person who uses SPF 30 sunscreen can prolong their time in the sun from 5 minutes before burning to 150 minutes. Here are some sunscreen tips:

Apply to skin 15 minutes before going out in the sun. For sprays, rub in sunscreen after spraying.


Reapply at least every 2 hours, even on cloudy days.

Reapply after heavy sweating, swimming and toweling off.

Using sunscreen products that are broad spectrum with an SPF between 30 and 50 is recommended, there is no additional benefit or difference if the SPF is greater than 50.

Do not use on children younger than 6 months. For children, lotions are the preferred dosage form.

Ask your pharmacist if your medication increases your chances of getting sunburned.

Some other key points of protecting your skin:

Stay indoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the suns rays are the strongest.

Cover your skin with long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats.

Smoking makes the skin look older and causes wrinkles; if you are currently smoking, please consider quitting.

Failure to protect the skin may result in melanoma, which is a deadly skin cancer caused by UV rays. If caught early, melanoma can be easily cured. Here are several warning signs to alert your family doctor about if you have any of the ABCDEs of melanoma, as well as the Ugly Duckling sign.

A Asymmetry If you draw a line through the mole, both sides are not the same

B Border Borders of mole are not even

C Color Mole has variety of colors (e.g. brown, blue, red, black)

D Diameter Mole is larger than the eraser on a pencil

E Evolving Any new sign or symptom (e.g. bleeding, itching) on mole

The Ugly Duckling Sign is a sign that one of the moles either looks or feels different that other moles you have, or that the mole changes over time unlike the other surrounding moles.


Founded in 1878, the Pennsylvania Pharmacists Association is a professional membership organization of more than 2,000 pharmacists and pharmacy students across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, representing almost all facets of pharmacy practice. As the leading voice of pharmacy in Pennsylvania, it promotes the profession through advocacy, education, and communication to enhance patient care and public health.