Summer brings with it new challenges for your skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid sunburn. UV radiation is a known carcinogen and sunburns are associated with an increased risk of malignant melanoma, a potentially life-threatening cancer. UV radiation is also responsible for sun-related aging of the skin and wrinkle formation.

Remember to apply sunscreen before you leave home for the beach, before you even get dressed. Most people forget to apply sunscreen to their eyelids, ears, neck, back, and back of their legs, so pay close attention to apply to these areas. For hard to reach places on your back, ask a buddy to help you out. Another option is to purchase a sunscreen spray. Sprays like EltaMD’s UV Aero, simplify the process and allow you to spray the hard to reach places on your own. For your face, I would recommend UV Clear made by EltaMD. It protects beautifully and effectively, doesn’t leave a white film, and won’t clog your pores. Please remember to reapply every two hours in the sun and after every dip in the water!

There are also clothing lines and beach umbrellas available that have a UV protection factor. A UV protection factor, UPF, is a measurement much like the SPF of a sunscreen. Look for the UPF when you are shopping and you will reap the benefits of added protection while you are at the beach. Personally, I found a great beach umbrella with UPF at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Barriers like an umbrella and clothing with UPF is especially helpful for protecting babies under 6 months from the sun, as pediatricians do not recommend using sunscreen on this age group. Remember to offer a bottle or nurse often to keep a very young baby hydrated in the summer warmth.

Be aware that given enough time in the sun, every skin type can burn, even dark skin types! Never underestimate how much damage UV exposure can do; there have been many times that I have treated sunburns in people who went swimming on a cloudy day and didn’t think they needed sunscreen. The same goes for those who thought they’d close their eyes and relax for a minute in the sun only to wake up two hours later with blisters on their body.

Sometimes the increases humidity and temperatures cause increase sweat production, leading to comedogenesis, or clogged pores. In order to combat this, a prescription topical retinoid cream is necessary. The topical retinoid cream will clear out clogged pores and keep them clear. You should discuss with your dermatologist which retinoid is best for your skin type and how to use it.

Water activities and sunscreens can sometimes end up irritating your skin; vary your activities so that your skin gets a chance to recuperate between your days at the beach. If you are spending a lot of time in the water, remember to moisturize your skin well after you shower, as excessive time in the water can deplete your skin of natural oils and dry it out.

May is Melanoma Awareness month, so a great way to start off the summer season is to see your dermatologist for your annual skin cancer screen during the month of May and get educated about what to look for on your own skin and how best to protect it. While you are at the beach, if you happen to spot a mole on someone’s back that doesn’t match their other moles, let them know. This sign, called the “Ugly Duckling Sign,” could be a sign of a deadly melanoma.