Summer is upon us, and before having fun in the sun, you should prepare to protect your skin from the potentially hazardous ultraviolet rays.

Most of us think that being exposed to the sun is only harmful to our skin primarily because this causes sunburn; however, there are more harmful risks to think about.

“Overexposure to the sun can lead to aging on our skin, referred to as photo aging,” says John Bowman, M.S., associate professor of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. “All you really need is one bad experience of getting sunburned to increase the risk of developing malignant melanoma, which is the most serious type of skin cancer.”

While there are many ways to protect your skin from the sun, most come from just good judgment.

“First and foremost, one should avoid going out during the highest peak of ultraviolet exposure, which is typically from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.,” Bowman says.

It is also helpful to wear clothing designed to block the sun such as beach tunics, big shirts and wide brim hats; these are all just as effective as sunscreen.

Of course, wearing sunscreen is important, and knowing which sun protection factor (SPF) is best for your skin can make all the difference.

“For an individual with fair skin, an SPF of 30 or more should be used,” Bowman says. “Individuals with a medium complexion should use an SPF of 12 through 29, and for those with dark skin, anything less than 12 is fine.”

After sun skin care is also important since it usually takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours after sun exposure for a burn to fully develop. Bowman suggests using fresh aloe vera, cocoa butter and anti-inflammatory pills to help reduce some of the after sun feelings such as dry skin, itching and pain.

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