You only have to step outside for a moment to know that summer is in full swing. Here in the Sunshine State, we enjoy “beach weather” almost year-round. It seems like we just can’t get enough fun in the sun — even sizzling asphalt and outrageous humidity aren’t enough to drive us indoors! But while backyard barbeques, boating on the Chain of Lakes or just relaxing by the pool are all great ways to spend a lazy summer afternoon, many people forego adequate sun protection resulting in skin damage, premature aging and an increased risk of developing cancer.

How exactly does sun exposure harm us? Sun damage is caused by invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Tanning is a visible sign of skin’s response to harmful UV rays: our bodies produce extra pigmentation that provides some added protection from sunburn, but it isn’t enough. Simply put, tanned skin is damaged skin. There’s no reason to miss out on summer fun, but here in Central Florida it goes without saying that sun protection is a must. Here are some tips to help save your skin:

Dress for success

If you know you’re going to be outside on a sunny day, try to wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Long sleeved shirts, pants and a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears are good ways to cover up. Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics to help you beat the heat

Slather on SPF

Wear sunscreen all day, every day. Choose a formula with an adequate sun protection factor (SPF). Aim for SPF 30 at least, and look for “broad spectrum” sunscreens that filter out both UVA and UVB rays. Water-resistant formulas are a great option if you’ll be swimming, but make sure to reapply as directed on the product label. Don’t forget to apply at least 15 minutes before going outside, and even while driving.

Watch the clock

Since the sun’s harmful rays are strongest during the middle of the day, try to avoid prolonged exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Remember that even on a cloudy day up to 80 percent of UV rays still make it through, so be sure to stick to shady areas as much as possible throughout the day.

Inspect your skin

Check your skin regularly for irregularities. Changes in the size, shape color or feel of moles and birthmarks may be early indicators of skin cancer. If you notice any changes to your skin, including sores that won’t heal, consult your doctor right away.