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Save your skin every day

Sunscreen isn’t just for summer. Find out why you need it year-round to help protect against skin cancer—and how to use it effectively.

Most of us associate sunscreen with hot summer days, but skin can still suffer damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays even during Oregon’s frequently overcast days. 

During the fierce heat of summer, skipping sunscreen can mean a painful and potentially dangerous burn. Even on gray days, clouds don’t prevent UV rays getting through. Everyday exposure has a cumulative effective on your overall skin health and could even add up to skin cancer—the most common cancer in the U.S.  

In 2021, the rate of melanoma in Oregon was 26.1 per 100,000 people, the 16th highest in the U.S. On average about 1,300 people in Oregon are diagnosed every year. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender, or skin tone. In fact, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. 

“Unprotected exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays is a major risk factor for skin cancer. That’s why cancer and other skin concerns often show up on places such as forearms, face, neck, and tops of ears that are exposed to the sun on a daily basis and not typically covered by clothing,” says Wendy Boughton, SAIF occupational safety and health nurse consultant.  

“Using sunscreen is shown to minimize short-term and long-term damage to the skin. The good news is that sunscreen formulations are now less sticky, heavy, and goopy, so they’re easier and more convenient to use.” 

While OSHA doesn’t currently classify sunscreen as PPE, it’s important for all outdoors workers to use it to protect their skin.  

  • If you’re a construction worker, get into the habit of applying sunscreen at your morning “stand-up” meetings. 
  • If you work outdoors on hot days when the Oregon OSHA heat rule applies, use your 10-minute rest break in the shade to reapply sunscreen. To be effective, sunscreen needs to be reapplied about every two hours. 

Here are some more tips on protecting your skin every day:  

  • Sunscreen needs to be applied to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outside. 
  • It needs to be broad protection (against UVA and UVB rays), SPF30 or higher, and water-resistant. 
  • Make sure you use enough. The general guideline is 1 ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) for the exposed parts of your body (arm/leg/back/chest). A nickel-sized dollop is typically adequate for the face. 
  • Remember to apply to the top of head, back of neck, tops of feet, and ears. 
  • Sunscreens with higher SPF protection don’t mean you can stay in the sun longer or need to reapply it less frequently. 
  • Don’t use sunscreen past its expiration date or for longer than three years. To save it going to waste, apply it every day. 
  • Lips need protection, too, so use a lip balm with SPF. 
  • Also wear sun-protective clothing, including a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection. 

Check out these other SAIF resources for ways to protect your skin from the sun: 

Sun protection

Sun safety game