Summer Sun Safety!
Summer is here and I am ready to hit the beach and enjoy the great weather. While having fun and soaking in the sun, it is important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. We are all susceptible to damaging UV rays and can even develop Melanoma or skin cancer if we don’t take enough precautions. Avoiding the sun all together is nearly impossible but there are a few things we can do to mitigate the risks of exposure to the sun’s UV rays.
To reduce the amount of exposure you have to the sun, take a break in the shade. If you are going to the beach or another destination that is open without natural shade producers such as large trees, bring an umbrella. Taking a time-out from sun exposure allows you to enjoy being outside in the warmth while blocking those risky rays.
Dress to Protect
Long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts will provide great protection from the sun. If possible, wear clothing with tightly woven fabric because it offers the best defense against UV rays. Make sure to stay dry or carry a change of clothing with you if you think your attire will end up wet. Wet clothing is much less effective in blocking UV rays than dry clothing. If you can, stick to darker colors. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Keep in mind that the type of clothing you choose to wear cannot fully protect you and taking other precautions along with the suggested clothing is necessary!
Top Off Your Look
Simply adding a hat to your sunny day outfit can greatly assist in protecting your skin from the sun. For the most protection, the CDC suggests wearing a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Fabric such as canvas, that is tightly woven, is a great choice. You will want to avoid hats made of straw because they have holes that can allow sunlight to get through. As with clothing, darker hats may offer more protection against UV rays. If your hat of choice is a baseball cap, make sure to cover areas such as your neck and ears with clothing or sunscreen.
Protect Your Peepers
Our eyeballs and the tender skin around our eyes can be badly damaged by exposure to UV rays. Sunglasses are a great way to block UV rays from reaching our eyes. Make sure to get sunglasses that will block both UVA and UVB rays. The CDC states that most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. They also recommend purchasing wrap-around sunglasses because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Apply and Re-apply
Regardless if it is super sunny or slightly cloudy, if you are going outside, always use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15. For all exposed skin, be sure to put on a thick layer of sunscreen. Also, get help when putting sunscreen on hard to reach places like your back. You don’t want to miss any spots and risk a painful burn. Sunscreen can and should be used in combination with the other forms of protection (shade, clothing, hats, sunglasses). Sunscreens are given a sun protection factor (SPF) which rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays from the sun. The higher the SPF, the more protection. Even if you choose the highest SPF sunscreen available, it will still wear off. You should re-apply your sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming. If you plan on using left over sunscreen, check the expiration date. If there is no expiration date, the CDC states that you can assume that the shelf life is no more than three years but could be much shorter if the sunscreen has been exposed to high temperatures.
You can still have fun in the sun while protecting yourself from UV rays. Use as many of these recommendations in combination with each other as you can. Exposing your skin to the sun without protection is not worth the risks. You can find more information and statistics about sun exposure and skin cancer on the CDC website, https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/statistics/race.htm
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