With Lupus, You Always Need To Think About Sun Protection

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Right now, my lower legs are covered with red spots. It has been so hot that I’ve been wearing capri pants every day. The result is that my legs have gotten more sun exposure than normal. But instead of turning a nice golden tan, I get red spots. With lupus, I have to be extra careful about how much sun I’m getting. 

Always protect your skin from the sun

I apply sunscreen on my face as part of my daily routine but often I forget about my arms & legs. I keep a tube of SPF 50 sunscreen on the table near where I get dressed. But I don’t use it unless I am planning on being outside more than just a few minutes. I should get in the habit of using it every day because being exposed even for a few minutes at a time adds up. 

How are sunscreens rated?

When you buy sunscreen, you’ll see numbers such as SPF 30 and SPF 50. SPF stands for sun protection factor. Sunscreens are regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) so these numbers mean the same amount of protection no matter which brand you use. 

Does this mean they are all the same?

No. There are different types of sunscreens for different applications. Some of the types available are lotion, gel, cream, butter, and sprays. Some sunscreens are also advertised as water-resistant. These will state on the label whether they remain effective for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating. 

Look for the words “broad spectrum”

Broad-spectrum means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVA stands for Ultraviolet A rays. These are long-wave rays that penetrate deep into the thickest layer of skin, the dermis. This is where you get premature wrinkling and skin aging. 

UVB stands for Ultraviolet B rays. They are short wave rays that will burn the outer layer of skin. These are the ones that contribute to skin cancer. The easy way to keep them straight is to remember UVA = aging, UVB = burn. Protect against both by always looking for a broad-spectrum sunscreen. 

So which one should you choose?

The FDA recommends a minimum of SPF 15 for everyone. But for people like me, who have fair skin, they suggest an SPF 30 to 50. And read the label to be sure you are re-applying as frequently as the manufacturer suggests. 

As for me, I am going to try to be more conscious of protecting my skin from the sun’s rays. Even though I may only be making a quick trip to the car, I’m still getting more sun exposure than I should. The evidence is clearly visible on my legs. 

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