Make Sun Safety a Top Priority


June 30, 2018 06:51 AM

Summer is here, the sun is shining, and it’s time to enjoy your favorite outdoor activities, but don’t forget to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Approximately 5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year in the United States, primarily due to preventable causes. According the CDC, having just one bad sunburn in childhood doubles your risk of developing skin cancer later in life, but really any exposure without protection can increase the risk.  The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, making sun safety a top priority whenever you step outside, even on cloudy days. You don’t need to stay indoors all summer long, that’d be a bummer, instead, try these safety tips to keep you protected while you have fun in the sun.

WEAR PROTECTIVE CLOTHING

The ideal way to protect yourself from the sun is to limit the amount of skin exposed by wearing long sleeves and pants when outside. However, the chances of you covering up that much when it’s 80° outside are very slim. Instead, be mindful of what you are wearing and how exposed your skin is to the sun. Wearing dark colors, tightly woven fabrics, and dry clothes will offer you more protection against the sun.

Another important item to include in your summer wardrobe is a wide-brimmed hat, preferably made of a tightly woven fabric. This is a simple way to protect your face, ears, and neck from the sun. Another accessory to always have at hand is a good pair of sunglasses. These play an important role in protecting your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of developing cataracts.

SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN, SUNSCREEN

It can’t be said enough – wear sunscreen always, and reapply often. Sunscreen is the best way to protect any exposed skin from the sun by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. It’s recommended to wear sunscreen with at least SPF 15, but the higher the rating, the better the protection. However, be careful with high SPF ratings; they won’t protect you forever, making it still important to reapply, cover yourself up, and seek shade.

Unfortunately for us, scientists have not yet made a sunscreen product that is “once-and-done”. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, or after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. And be wary of spray sunscreens, they may save time in the application process, but it is still unclear if they provide a thick enough layer of coverage and what the effects are of inhaling the product. Don’t forget to check the expiration date, sunscreen will become ineffective past this point, and you don’t want to think you’re protected only to realize you weren’t after getting sunburned. If there is no expiration date, the general rule of thumb is a shelf life of three years, less if the bottle has been exposed to high temperatures. The safest bet would be to replace sunscreen every year to ensure the best possible protection.

EDUCATE EARLY ABOUT SUN SAFETY

Understanding sun safety is important at every age, but it’s especially important to educate young and start forming good habits. Encourage kids to cover up, wear a hat, and liberally apply sunscreen throughout the day. Discourage exposure to the sun for the sake of “tanning,” particularly the use of indoor tanning for special events or to be tan year-round. This is not a safe habit and can create lasting, and damaging, effects.

To take it one step further, encourage schools, summer camps, and public outdoor areas to provide ample shade for people. It’s important for everyone to take breaks from time spent in the sun and cool down in the shade.  Provide ample space for kids to still run around while getting a break from the sun so they understand that time in the shade doesn’t mean their fun has to stop. This doesn’t just apply to kids, but is an important precaution everyone should take when it comes to sun safety. The more time spent in the shade, the better off you’ll be in terms of protecting yourself from the sun.

Any time spent outside means exposing yourself to the sun’s UV rays. Even when the sun isn’t shining, these harmful rays can reach, and harm, your skin. The best way you can minimize this damage is to follow these sun safety tips every day.