Swimming, picnics, green grass and lemonade-summer has officially arrived! The season of fun and sun is upon us. However, it’s essential to also recognize the hazards associated with our favorite season. Sunscreen use is critical. If not protected, long and lazy sun-drenched days can quickly turn to uncomfortable burning, cracking, peeling or worse. Here are a few tips on sunscreen use that can help keep you and your family happy and protected this season.
When should I use sunscreen?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that, regardless of skin type, sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays is water resistant and yields a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be used year round. Sunscreen should be applied every day to exposed skin, regardless of if you’re in the sun or not. And don’t let the clouds fool you either, up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. Alternately, sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun’s rays.
What are UVA and UVB rays?
Two types of harmful rays are found in sunlight- ultraviolet A rays and ultraviolet B rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin and are known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin causing wrinkling and age spots. UVA rays can also pass through window glass. Alternately, UVB rays cause sunburn and are blocked by standard window glass. However, excessive exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can lead to the development of skin cancer.
What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreens are rated by the strength of their SPF. The SPF numbers found on sunscreen can range from 2 to 50. This number refers to the product’s ability to deflect the sun’s burning and harmful rays.
According to the AAD
the SPF ranking is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause sunburn on unprotected skin. For example, if a sunscreen is rated SPF 2 and a person who would normally turn red after ten minutes of exposure in the sun uses it; it would take twenty minutes of exposure for the skin to turn red. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 would allow that person to multiply that initial burning time by 15, which means it would take 15 times longer to burn, or 150 minutes. Even with this protection, sunscreen rubs off with normal wear, so it needs to be reapplied at least every two hours.
How much and how often should sunscreen be applied?
Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoors and make sure to smear generous amounts to all exposed areas, paying specific attention to your face, ears, hands and arms. And don’t forget your lips! Put on lip balm that includes sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. A good rule of thumb is one ounce (equal to about one shots glass) is needed to adequately cover the exposed areas of the body.
Reapply sunscreen every two hour, after swimming or sweating profusely. Water resistant sunscreens even lose their effectiveness after 40 minutes in the pool so it’s important to remember to reapply. Sunscreen rubs off as well, so if you towel-dried at some point, you’ll need to reapply afterward.
Other Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun
Wear protective clothing-Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible.
Seek shade-Don’t set up camp right in the sun, try the shade. And remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Protect children-Play in the shade, wear protective clothing, and always apply sunscreen.
Avoid tanning beds-Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer, wrinkling and premature aging. If you prefer a bronzed look try using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Regularly assess yourself-Take notice of anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin. If you see anything visit your doctor or dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.
More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. With just a little bit of knowledge and preparation, your summer can be care-free, burn-free and cancer-free.