With the summer months around the corner, it’s important that we protect our skin. The best way to protect your skin from the dangerous effects of UV radiation is to make sun protection part of your daily routine. When playing in the sun, going to the beach or walking along the boardwalk, keep your skin safe from harmful rays.
There's always a lot to consider when spending time in the sun, and outdoors in general, during the summer months. Even on a cloudy day, the sun's rays can be strong and therefore cause sun damage.
There's many instances that affect skin sensitivity. It's important to note that certain oral and topical medicines, including antibiotics, birth control and benzoyl peroxide products can increase the sensitivity of your skin and eyes to UV rays. Check the label on your medicines and discuss the risks with your doctor.
Cosmetics that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) also may increase sun sensitivity and susceptibility to sunburn. Look for the FDA’s recommended sun alert statement on products that contain AHAs.
Here are some ways to ensure you're keeping your skin and eyes safe from harmful rays:
Protect Yourself from the Sun
When planning your outdoor activities plan to avoid the sun's strongest rays. With smart phones in everyone's pockets, there are applications that tell you when the UV rays are strongest throughout the day, typically between the hours of 10 A.M and 4 P.M. You can also use the “shadow rule” - the sun’s UV rays are strongest when the shadow you cast on the ground is shorter than you are. Here are few more tips to protect yourself from the sun:
- Avoid overexposure to UV rays from both natural and artificial source
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand because they reflect damaging UV rays and increase your chance of sunburn and other damage to the skin and eyes.
- Carefully examine all of your skin once a month. Early detection of melanoma can save your life. A new or changing skin lesion should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
- See a dermatologist if you notice an unusual mole, a scaly patch, or a sore with local persistent bleeding or that does not heal. This may be a pre-cancer or a skin cancer. If you develop severe itching or rashes in the sun, this may be an allergic reaction.
Wear Protective Clothing
A wide-brimmed hats that shield your face and shoulders will provide the most protection. Optimally, the brim will be at least 4 inches wide and made of tightly-woven, opaque fibers. Loosely woven straw hats provide very little sun protection. As a rule of thumb, do not wear a hat if you can see light shining through the fabric.
Clothing can also help protect you from UV rays. Tightly-woven, light-colored, lightweight fabrics will provide you with the most comfort and protection.
Sun-protective clothing and swimsuits are now available in stores. However, these products are not regulated by the FDA.
Protect Your Eyes
Your eyes are extremely sensitive to the sun, it's crucial that you protect them from harmful rays. Wearing sunglasses with UVA/UVB ratings of 100% provide the most UV protection. Sunglasses are also the most effective when worn with a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen. Here are some more tips about protecting your eyes:
- Do not mistake dark-tinted sunglasses as having more UV protection. The darkness of the lens does not indicate its ability to shield your eyes from UV rays. Many sunglasses with light-colored tints, such as green, amber, red, and gray offer the same UV protection as very dark lenses.
- Children should also wear sunglasses that indicate the UV protection level. Toy sunglasses may not have any UV protection, so be sure to look for the UV protection label.
- Large, wraparound-style frames may provide more efficient UV protection because they cover the entire eye-socket. This is especially important when doing activities around or on water because much of the UV comes from light reflected off the water’s surface.
Applying sunscreen needs to become part of your regular routine. It's important that, even on the cloudiest of days, you protect your skin from harmful rays. Companies now sell makeup and lotions that have SPF in the formula, making it easier than ever to ensure your skin is protected all day, and every day.
Use a broad-spectrum (protecting from both UVA and UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater to protect uncovered skin. For best results, apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 1-1/2 to 2 hours even on cloudy days and after swimming or sweating. Both selection of the sunscreen and re-applications are important.