Tips for Sun Safety
As the weather improves, it’s important to include sun safety in all your summer plans! May is the perfect time to review sun safety tips because it is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Sunburn certainly hurts, but long term and intense sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, the most common cancer in the U.S. More than 5 million Americans are diagnosed with some kind of skin cancer every year.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common skin cancers. Protecting yourself from the sun is the best way to avoid a BCC or SCC diagnosis.
Melanoma is the most fatal form of the disease. People with melanoma in their immediate family are more likely to be diagnosed with it. Setting aside genetics, sun protection is essential. People with more than five sunburns have double the risk for melanoma compared to people who avoid intense sun exposure.
The science is clear: if you shield your skin from the sun, you are much less likely to get skin cancer. Let’s review some of the tools and tips you’ll need to protect your biggest organ. These tips work best when used in combinations, so please mix and match them the next time you’re outside.
Avoid Peak Sun
On clear, hot days, it’s best to stay out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This window is when UV rays are at their strongest. If you’re spending the day outside, this is a good time frame for lunch or an indoor break.
If you need to be outside, be aware that the sun is at its strongest and use a few of the tips below.
On those days when you need to be outside in peak sun, shade is your oasis. Try to deploy an umbrella or tent if possible. Otherwise, hang out near any buildings, under trees or any place you simply catch some shade.
Shade also gives you a break. The sun can also dehydrate so be sure you’re drinking plenty of water.
Sunscreen Best Practices
- It only takes 15 minutes to get a sunburn, so always put on sunscreen before going outside.
- The sun can cause skin damage even if it’s not a bright sunny day. Be sure to wear sunscreen year round, even on cloudy, overcast days.
- Find a sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher and blocks both UVA and UVB rays. This info will be printed right on the bottle.
- Apply a thick layer of sunscreen to all of your exposed skin.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
- Reapply sunscreen after swimming and heavy sweating.
- Remember sunscreen is just one of the tools to protect yourself from the sun.
Grab a Hat
The best hats for sun protection have a 360-degree brim that shades your face, the back of your neck and your ears. Tightly woven fabrics in dark colors are ideal for dealing with UV rays. Straw hats or mesh-backed trucker hats have holes for the sunshine to reach your skin.
People wearing baseball caps or visors should pay extra attention to their ears and the back of their necks.
Protect your Eyes with Sunglasses
Sunglasses protect your eyes and the tender skin near your eyes from UVA and UVB rays. Protecting this area lowers your risk of cataracts and skin cancer. For maximum protection, find wraparound glasses. The design deters sun rays from hitting your eye from the sides.
Cover up with Clothing
Using clothing to cover your skin is a strong sun protection tactic. Some brands make fabric that is certified for UV protection. Long-sleeved sun shirts are typically made of breathable fabric that blocks the sun.
If you don’t want to wear a long-sleeved shirt to the beach, there are a few half measures. Spending some time in a cover-up or tank top will protect big swaths of your skin from direct sun. Tightly woven fabric and dark colors deliver superior protection.
Steer Clear of Tanning Beds
Say no to tanning. There’s no such thing as a safe tan, whether you’re inside or outside. It’s a myth that indoor tanning is a safer alternative to sun tanning. Tanning beds, tanning booths, and sunlamps expose you to intense UV radiation, which increases your risk of skin cancer and skin damage.
Check the Index
The UV Index forecasts the strength of UV rays each day. If the UV index is 3 or higher in your area, protect your skin from too much exposure to the sun.
Sun Safety All Year Long
Protection from UV rays is important all year, not just during the summer. UV rays can reach you on cloudy and cool days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, snow and sand.
We Need the Sun, But Seek it Out in Moderation
We need sunshine and fresh air. Getting outside boosts our mood and sunshine is a key source of vitamin D. But, just like anything else, too much of a good thing turns into a bad thing.
Seek the sun in moderation, cover up and use sunscreen whenever possible.