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Protecting Senior Skin from the Summer Sun

Everyone needs a little sunshine—if nothing else, for the relaxing warmth and some extra Vitamin D.

But caregivers need to be sure that before they head outdoors, they have protected both themselves and their elderly loved ones against the damaging effects of the sun, which can lead to melanoma.

New York dermatologist Arielle Kauvar told AgingCare.com that most people don't do enough to protect aging skin. For instance, instead of a dollop of sunscreen smeared on the face as you're heading out the door, you should be applying a shot-glass size amount about 30 minutes before you leave. If you're swimming or sweating, you should reapply the sunscreen every two hours.

The sunscreen should be a water-resistant, broad-spectrum product that protects against both UVA (ultraviolet short-wave) and UVB (ultraviolet long-wave) rays, with an SPF or sun protection factor of 30 or higher. It should be applied before you get dressed, so you can be sure that you haven't missed any spots. Dr. Kauvar says it's important to pay special attention to the hands and feet, as well as any bald spots on an elderly person's head. Lip balm with an SPF at least 30 should also be used, and reapplied after eating.

Dark clothing with a tight weave can also protect the skin, but may not be the best choice for seniors, since they get hotter than loosely woven, lighter-colored clothes. For this reason, Dr. Kauvar suggests buying special clothing that protects against ultraviolet rays. Made for gardening, swimming and leisure wear, the clothing should have a UVP or ultraviolet protection factor above 30 (by comparison, she says, an ordinary tee shirt only has a UVP factor of 6).

Top the outfit off with a broad-brimmed hat and dark sunglasses, and you're ready for your place in the sun.

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