Play it Safe for Sun Safety Month
Summer is a time for lots of fun in the sun - and sometimes a scorching sunburn or two. Short of wearing a parka, how can you enjoy all the outdoor fun summer has to offer while still staying safe in the sun?
While some sun exposure is good for maintaining vitamin D levels and improving mood, it pays to be careful. As luck would have it, July is Sun Safety Month, so it's the perfect time to familiarize yourself with some basic sun safety tips. Your skin will thank you.
One of the simplest ways to protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is to wear protective clothing. While there's no need to dig out the parka mentioned above, you will benefit from long-sleeved shirts and pants. And remember to cover your head with a hat or scarf, and shield your eyes behind UV-blocking sunglasses. Those pesky UV rays can damage your eyes, as well as your skin.
Be a Shady Character
Not feeling the protective clothing? Or maybe you were caught unprepared? If possible, stay in the shade during peak sunburn hours, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, are between 10 am and 4 pm. There is still plenty of fun to be had before and after those hours.
Apply Sunscreen. Repeat. Repeat Again.
Just can't say in the shade? In that case, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to all exposed skin, and make sure the sunscreen has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Be sure to apply it 15 minutes before sun exposure, and apply it liberally - there is no such thing as too much sunscreen. If you'll be outdoors for an extended period of time, reapply sunscreen often. Going swimming? Reapply sunscreen after your swim. Even if your sunscreen is water-resistant, it must be reapplied throughout the day, especially after swimming or sweating.
What's the deal with SPF? What does it mean anyway? An SPF factor indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden your skin when using the sunscreen as compared to how long it will take without it. For example, if you use an SPF 30 sunscreen, it will take 30 times longer for the skin to burn than it would without sunscreen.
Don't Feel the Burn
Sunburns significantly increase your lifetime risk of developing cancer. Skin cancer is largely preventable, yet it's the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, more than 3.5 million new cases are diagnosed each year. Don't be one of the 3.5 million - do what you can to protect your skin from the sun.
Beware the Beach
There's nothing like hitting a beach on a hot summer day - but you also need to take special precautions when it comes to sun safety. Both water and sand can reflect up to 80% of the sun's rays, which adds to your overall sun exposure. The FDA recommends you choose water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum 30 SPF and apply about 1 ounce (that's about a shot glass full, folks) approximately 30 minutes before sun exposure. Why 30 minutes? That time allows the sunscreen ingredients to fully bind to your skin. You'll also want to reapply every 2 hours, or right after swimming, toweling off or sweating a lot. Basically, if you spend half a day at the beach, you should reapply sunscreen at least twice.
Hats and protective eyewear are beneficial at the beach as well, and of course, protective clothing is always your friend. But one simple thing you can do is to include shade breaks. Whether that shade is provided by an umbrella or a roof, you'll have a chance to cool down a little, reapply some sunscreen and just give your skin a little break. Your sand castle will wait. The waves will still be there. And the sun will still be waiting for you.
Sun Savvy Kids
Many of us spent hours upon hours in the sun each and every summer of our youth - and many of us did it without sunscreen. But now we know better. The Skin Cancer Foundation has estimated that 80% of lifetime sun exposure occurs during childhood. That's right - 80%. And just one severe sunburn can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life. Protect your children by following these tips (which apply to adults as well):
• Limit outdoor play between 10a.m. and 4p.m. This is when the sun's rays are at their strongest, and even on cloudy or cooler days, ultraviolet (UV) rays remain strong. If your kiddos are playing outdoors during these hours, be sure to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen.
• Be vigilant with sunscreen. Sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher should be applied 30 minutes before your child goes out in the sun. Make it more fun for kids by using colorful sunscreens that make it easier to see which areas have been covered well. These versions also make it easier for kids to learn to apply sunscreen themselves. Remember to get those little noses, ears, hands, feet and shoulders, as well as behind the neck. Lips are susceptible to burning too, so apply a lip balm with SPF protection. Reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours, or after sweating or swimming.
• Take cover. Wearing protective clothing and hats is one of the most important ways of warding off UV damage. Keep your kids covered with dark colors, long sleeves, pants, hats and sunglasses. If you'll be at the beach, bring along a beach umbrella.
Tip: Dark clothing recommended for use as protective clothing. Why? Because when light-colored clothing is wet, it transmits just as much sunlight as bare skin.
• Monitor medications. Some medications (usually antibiotics or acne medications) can make skin more sensitive to sunlight, so make sure to ask your doctor whether this could be a concern for your child.
• Make it a habit - for everyone. If your children see you practicing smart sun safety, they will be more likely to make it part of their routines too.
Protecting your skin from the sun doesn't mean you have to hibernate all summer. By taking a few precautions, you'll save yourself from painful sunburns and future skin damage while still having your summer fun.