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Spring’s Almost Here; Need More Sunscreen?

Did you know one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70? Did you know that more than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour? If you were told that having more than five sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, would you do something to lower your risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2014), the sun is the best source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in your skin when it is exposed to the sun. However, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage connective tissue and increase the risk of developing skin cancer. The application of sunscreen can help protect us from the ultraviolet ray exposure.

Experts recommend a sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. The number following the SPF refers to how many times longer you will be protected in the sun before burning. Therefore, SPF 15 means a person will be protected 30 times longer. When purchasing sunscreen, you need to look for words such as “broad spectrum” and “SPF of 30.”

The Food and Drug Administration recommends that sunscreen not be used if it is past its expiration date (if one is noted) or if it was not purchased within the last three years. Outdated sunscreens are not assured to be safe or fully effective past the expiration date or the three years.

Reapplying sunscreen is very important, even if it claims to be “water resistant.” Sunscreen eventually will wash off, and a person no longer will be protected from the ultraviolet rays. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends applying sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplying it at least every two hours to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet and backs of hands.

Individuals also can protect themselves from sun exposure by wearing clothing with a tight weave or high-SPF clothing. Wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection and side panels also will help protect a person enjoying the sun.

Sun-protective clothing is clothing designed for sun protection and is produced from a fabric that has a level of ultraviolet protection. Sun-protective clothing may include full coverage of the skin, including long sleeves, ankle-length trousers, knee- to floor-length skirts, knee- to floor-length dresses and collars.

Sunburn may not show right away. You’ll usually notice a sunburn four hours after exposure to the sun, It worsens in 24 to 36 hours and resolves in three to five days. Sunburn includes red, tender and swollen skin, blistering, headache, fever, nausea and fatigue.

Try this sunburn first aid, according to the CDC:

  • Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache and fever.
  • Drink plenty of water to help reduce fluid losses.
  • Comfort burns with cool baths or the gentle application of cool, wet cloths.
  • Avoid further exposure until the burn has resolved.
  • Use a topical moisturizing cream, aloe or 1% hydrocortisone cream, which may provide additional relief.


By Georgina Eidmann, Community Nutrition Intern, NDSU Extension; reviewed by Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension 





CDC - NIOSH Publications and Products - NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself from Sun Exposure (2010-116). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Sunscreen: How to Help Protect Your Skin from the Sun. Retrieved from

Gronholz, S. (Jan. 1, 2018). Red, White and Blue Dessert. Retrieved from

Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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