We are in the full swing of summer now.

So what better subject for July's Healthy Actions than proper sun care?

The expert this month is Dr. Eliot Mostow, an independent dermatologist with Akron Dermatology and professor and section chief of dermatology at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

I asked Mostow what we're all doing right — and wrong — when it comes to taking care of our skin in the sun.

Q: How important is sunscreen?

A: Sunscreen helps prevent skin cancers. There are three types: basal-cell carcinoma, squamous-cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Basal cell is so common that at least 3 million Americans will get it this year. It will most likely never kill you, but could leave you with a scar. It is also so common that it is typically taken out of general cancer statistics.

Sunscreens can help prevent the discomfort, scarring, quality of life issues and death that can come with skin cancer.

They also help prevent simple things like irregular blotchy brown spots and wrinkly, leather-looking skin.

Good information can be found at the Skin Cancer Foundation, www.skincancer.org.

Q: Do I need sunscreen daily and year-round? What about daily moisturizers with SPF?

A: Sunscreens on a daily basis and year-round are a great idea. Most dermatologists wear sunscreen every day. I have olive skin. I wait until I'm headed out after work to put it on. I keep sunscreen in the car. Especially for men, the first step is you need to own some sunscreen. Also, pick one that you like the feel of on your skin. I'll put it on when I'm going outside or on a long car ride.

Q: Should I layer SPF foundation and sunscreen?

A: Yes. The SPF (sun protection factor) in a makeup foundation isn't enough.

Q: Settle this debate. My husband, who is fair-skinned, has always said, “It's late afternoon or after 5, so I don't need sunscreen.”

A: A good rule of thumb is if your shadow is longer than you are tall, independent of the time of day, it is safer to be outside. You should always have at least a sunscreen with an effective SPF of at least 15. Most people, especially fair-skinned, should wear sunscreen at all times outside. People at highest risk are people who burn the most. Your skin is a little darker than his, so you could get away easier with an SPF of 15 or 30, but your husband realistically needs a 50 or 80.

Also make sure your sunscreen says “broad spectrum protection or UVA protection.” SPF only refers to UVB protection.

Q: How do the SPF numbers work?

A: If a person normally gets a little burn after 10 minutes of sun exposure, by putting sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before you go outside with SPF 15, that gives you 15 times 10 minutes before you burn, or 150 minutes if you're not in water or sweating a lot. Even if you're in shade by water, it is reflected light that can burn you.

An SPF 15 blocks 93 percent of UVB rays, 30 blocks 96 percent and 60 blocks 98 percent. It could be that extra percentage might be more important for your husband with fair skin and less for you. Plus, SPF does not measure UVA blocking strength.

There is no exact point when sunscreen quits working. I'd rather be more diligent and not get skin cancer.

Q: How much sunscreen should you put on?

A: A man wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts should use at least a shot glass worth for the whole body (more for a woman in a bikini). Application is key: I like sunscreens that are spray-on for hairy arms and legs. You need to rub them in and don't miss areas. But all sunscreen varieties are good. Whatever will cause you to put it on and reapply.

Q: How often should you reapply?

A: Most people don't reapply enough. If you're in the water, immediately put it on after you get out of the water or if you're sweating again, even if it says water-resistant.

Q: What is one area people forget to protect?

A: Receding hairlines, especially areas of partial hair loss or tops of the feet. Also the ears and backs of necks.

Q: Is sunscreen specifically for the face or marketed for kids necessary or different?

A: A lot of it is marketing. Certainly some of the face sunscreens are less greasy and thick. Some say you shouldn't use sunscreen on kids younger than 6 months of age and keep them out of the sun.

Q: What about sun-protective clothing?

A: I love it. If I put on a comfortable long-sleeved shirt that I know is perfect sun protection, even if wet, I'm happy as can be. Hats are also a good idea when you're outside.

Q: How do you feel about spray tans or tanning beds?

A: A spray tan is safe. You are spraying dye on your skin, as long as you don't inhale it. Everybody is a little different, so test it so you don't look orange. A tanning booth tan is more dangerous than the sun and is more associated with melanoma.

For people who say I need to get a tan before I go to the beach and burn, the answer is — you don't. You need to be more diligent with your sunscreen.

Q: What should you do when you burn?

A: First thing is get out of the sun. You can use cool compresses for comfort and if you take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory like Advil or Aleve early on, it will decrease the burn, pain and redness.

Q: Some people used to slather baby oil and lay out in the sun. Are they now seeing the effects of that?

A: Oh, my gosh, yes. People who have had early-tanning exposure are likely to have had multiple skin cancers, both basal and squamous cell for the most part.

Q: Is there anything I can do now if I was irresponsible when I was young?

A: You should start wearing sunscreen. You should start by looking at your own skin and do a self-skin exam. Have your physician look with your clothes off at your skin. If they are concerned, they will send you to a dermatologist. If you're a higher-risk patient, then you can go directly to a dermatologist.

Q: What am I looking for?

A: Anything that's out of the ordinary. Any sore that doesn't heal. An ugly brown spot that's different than others or a patch of skin that's not going away. But as skin ages, it reacts differently so not every growth on your body is skin cancer.

Beacon Journal consumer columnist and medical reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty