Fun in the Sun: Safe Sun Protection
Trevor Batty, DO FAAD
Summertime is here! It’s time to enjoy the outdoors and the various activities that come with the season. As you prepare to head outside don’t forget to practice smart skin sun care. It is estimated that one in five people will get skin cancer making it the most common cancer. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the most common and easiest to modify risk factor for skin cancer.This article will discuss helpful tips you can take to maximize the outdoor fun and while minimizing your exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun.
UV index is used to measure the strength of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and is reported by most weather services. The UV index is the highest between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, so when possible plan outdoor projects/activities during the morning hours before 10 AM or in the evening after 4 PM. Seeking shade during the day, where the UV index is lower, also reduces your exposure. Another way to protect your skin is wearing broad-brimmed hats, pants, and long sleeve shirts to minimize the amount of skin exposed. There are many outdoor clothing brands that make clothing that are rated for sun protection called ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). The higher the UPF, the more protective the clothing.
When it comes to sunscreen, the most important thing is that you apply the sunscreen of your choice to skin that is not covered by clothing and reapplying at the recommended intervals. Choosing sunscreen can be a daunting task when you look at all of the available options. Be sure to choose a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher, water-resistant, and is labeled as broad spectrum. There are two main categories of sunscreen, physical and chemical. The simplest way to know if a sunscreen is a physical or chemical blocker, is to look on the label for the active ingredients. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as active ingredients which act like a shield, reflecting ultraviolet rays. Chemical sunscreens contain numerous active ingredients in combinations such as oxybenzone, avobenzone Octisalate, etc that act more like a sponge absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays. Physical sunscreens can be a little thicker and work very well especially on individuals with sensitive skin. They commonly come in lotions, but can be found in the form of a bar, brush on, and seldomly in a spray. Chemical sunscreens are easier to apply and rub into the skin without a noticeable residue. They also come in variety forms including bar, lotions, sprays. When applying the sunscreen be sure to massage it gently and evenly into the skin. Reapplication is needed every 2 hours or 80 minutes if wet or sweating.
Summer has come and it is time to get outside and enjoy. As you plan your various activities and projects, plan on practicing smart sun protection methods by seeking shade, wearing sun-protective clothing, planning activities during low UV index times, and regular application of sunscreen.