How the Springtime Sun Can Fool You and Damage Your Skin

Don't wait until it's hot to start wearing sunscreen

Hand-foot-mouth disease

Springtime temperatures may not be as intense as the summertime heat, but you still have to protect your skin against the sun’s damaging rays.

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Ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which is the No. 1 cause of skin cancer, is a year-round concern, says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD, FAAD.

You can be fooled by the springtime sun because it’s cooler and you may not realize how much sun you’re getting when you’re outside, Dr. Piliang says.

“As we start to go back out again we need to remember that the sun is higher in the sky, the sun’s rays are more intense, and it’s just as important to use safe sun practices,” she says. “That little bit of sun feels good, but you’re still getting a lot of it.”

Your best defense against in the springtime – and any time – is sunscreen. Use an SPF of at least 30 and re-apply every couple of hours. Re-apply more often if you’re swimming outdoors.

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Check your sunscreen

If you’re using sunscreen from last year, you may want to check the bottle to make sure it hasn’t expired. Sunscreens usually have a three-year expiration date.

Dr. Piliang says, however, that if you still have sunscreen left from last year, it may indicate you’re not applying enough — and getting the full benefit of the SPF listed on the label. If you’re wearing a swimsuit, for example, you have to apply one ounce of sunscreen – enough to fill a shot glass.

“You go to the beach and take an eight-ounce bottle of sunscreen and if you have a family of four, that sunscreen should last you a day at most,” Dr. Piliang says.

Other protection

A long-sleeved shirt – appropriate in the comfortably cool temperatures of spring – and a hat also can protect you from the sun. A wide-brimmed hat with a brim that goes all the way around your head will give you the best protection, Dr. Piliang says.

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“That way, you protect your ears, the back of your neck, and the sides of your face,” she says. “A baseball cap, which just has a bill in the front, will protect only the central triangle of your face. It does not protect your cheeks, your neck or your ears.”

Women should wear a moisturizer or cosmetics that provide SPF protection, too. Dr. Piliang says you need only one good SPF product that you apply to your face in the morning. Check the expiration dates on these products as well.

Men who are balding or shave their heads should take extra precautions in the sun, because the sun’s rays shine directly on the top of the head. This mean applying a generous amount of sunscreen to your scalp or wearing a hat whenever you’re outside, she says.

“We see a lot of skin cancer on the scalps of men who are balding or who have shaved their heads,” Dr. Piliang says. “These men get a lot of sun exposure and often receive a lot of sun damage to their scalp because the top of the head is perpendicular to the sun’s rays.”

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