School may be out, but it never hurts to take a refresher course in summer skin safety. We all know the basics—wear sunscreen and a hat. But it turns out there’s a lot more you could be doing to protect your skin from the summer sun.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. About 90 percent of all skin cancer is caused by UV exposure from the sun. There is no healthy, safe way to tan; however, it’s not realistic to prevent all sun exposure. If you want to enjoy all of the outdoor fun that summer offers, your skin will be exposed to the sun and yes, you may even get a little bit of a tan. A little preparation and common sense can help you enjoy the summer sun—safely.
Wear sunscreen. The importance of sunscreen cannot be overstressed. Wear sunscreen—all of the time. Apply it on sunny days, cloudy days, hot days, cold days, in the summer, in the winter. Every day. It’s not enough just to apply sunscreen; apply it right:
- Broad spectrum: Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are associated with wrinkling and aging, while UVB rays are associated with burning. Both types of rays cause skin damage.
- High SPF: Choose a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. (Though the jury is still out on anything over 50.)
- Apply early and often: Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside. Reapply at least every 2 hours, more often if you’re sweating or swimming. Even if you’re wearing waterproof sunscreen, it’s imperative to reapply immediately upon exiting the water, as no sunscreen is truly waterproof.
- Slather it on. This is no time to conserve. Dermatologists recommend applying at least 1 ounce of sunscreen to all exposed areas—this adds up to about the amount of a shot glass for your entire body.
- Go white. Sunscreens with physical blockers such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide block more rays. Another bonus is that these ingredients are associated with fewer allergic responses.
Wear a hat. Hats are more than an indicator of fashion sense—they are the hallmark of common sense. Choose a wide-brimmed hat that shields your skin from the sun’s harsh rays. You’ll protect your skin and look like a summer fashionista.
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Wear protective clothing. Even if you look like a million bucks in your teeny-weeny bikini, it’s not a great idea to let it all hang out. Cover up! Just remember that not all clothing will provide the same amount of protection. That breezy sarong looks smashing, but offers little in the way of sun blockage.
- Sun-protective clothing: Sun-protective clothing is rated with an ultraviolet protection factor or UPF. These fabrics have a tighter weave and provide more protection than other clothing. Play it safe and choose clothing with a UPF rating of 30 or higher.
- Wash-in protection: Wash-in protection is a laundry aid that washes UV protection into your clothes. When added to a load of laundry, it creates a UPF of 30 for every garment in the load. This protection lasts for up to 20 washes.
- Regular clothing: Regular clothing does offer some protection from the sun, but not a lot. For example, a plain white t-shirt offers a UPF of about 10—and this number is cut in half if that shirt gets wet.
Limit exposure: The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is a time to stay indoors or seek shade.
Make shade: If you’re planning a long day at the park or at the beach, bring a beach umbrella or portable shelter to provide shade from both the heat and the harmful rays of the sun.
Beware the burn: It bears repeating—never, never, never let your skin burn. Follow the steps above to prevent sunburn and have a fun safe summer in the sun!