Lather Up! Tips for Protecting Your Skin in the Sun

When summer comes around, many people see it as a chance to spend more time outside and in the sun. And why not? The days are longer, and the temperatures are heating up. However, there is one reason not to spend too much time outdoors, and that is the sun. During this time of the year, the sun is stronger, with a greater possibility of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays causing damage to your skin, as well as your eyes. Over time, exposure to the sun can cause skin to lose its elastin, causing skin to stretch and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. Also, bruises and tears will take longer to heal. Other ways sun exposure can affect your skin is by causing freckles, wrinkles, and premature aging. Skin cancer can occur from unprotected exposure to the sun. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and one of the most common cancers among adolescents and young adults. Non-melanoma skin cancers, including basal-cell carcinomas and squamous-cell carcinomas, are less deadly, but if left untreated, can cause serious health problems. Your skin isn’t the only thing affected by the sun’s UV rays. Eyes can be damaged, causing cataracts and pterygium, which is when tissue grows and blocks a person’s vision. While these effects of being outside can sound scary, there are ways to protect your skin and eyes while still enjoying summer.

Cover-Up: Yes, summer is the time for shorts, as well as short-sleeved and sleeveless shirts. However, try to wear a hat and clothes that protect your skin from the sun. Wide-brimmed hats are suggested, because they cover your neck, ears, eyes, forehead, and whole face. A trick to test whether or not your clothes block out the sun is by placing your hand between a single layer of clothing and the sun. If you can see your hand through the fabric, there is little sun protection. Also, don’t forget your sunglasses! It is recommended that at least 99% of the UV light be blocked by the glasses.

Wear Sunscreen: No matter how long you’ll be out in the sun or the time of the year, putting on sunscreen should become a daily habit. When choosing a sunscreen, there are several things to consider. According to the American Cancer Society’s guidelines, read the labels before you buy. All sunscreen labels should meet the following requirements of the US Food and Drug Administration: sunscreen should have an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher and have broad-spectrum protection. Broad-spectrum protection means the sunscreen will protect against UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays are long ultraviolet waves that go deep into the dermis, your skin’s thickest layer, causing premature aging and skin cancer. UVB rays usually burn the superficial layers of your skin, resulting in sunburn. Lastly, note the difference between water-resistant and waterproof. No sunscreens are waterproof. However, if the label states they are water-resistant, the sunscreen is meant to stay on for 40 to 80 minutes while you are swimming or sweating. It is recommended to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, and more often if you are active outside.

Limit Exposure: There is no better place to be than outside during the summer, making this sun tip a little difficult. The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try and limit your exposure during this time (yes, that is a large part of the day). If you must be outside, find a shady spot to protect yourself. One way to test the sun’s intensity is by doing the shadow test, which states that if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.

Using the tips above will help you protect your skin and eyes from the sun. However, not all sun is bad. A little sun exposure helps your body kill bad bacteria, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, and can help with depression. Just remember to limit your time and protect yourself in the sun!