7 simple steps to staying safe in the sun
Summer is here, and with outdoor activities like beach parties, music festivals and neighborhood cookouts on the horizon, it’s absolutely critical to protect your skin from the sun.
Looking through the sunscreen racks can be challenging when trying to choose the right sunscreen. Especially with so many different options when it comes to brands, UV protection and SPF ratings.
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, but what that really means is how much longer your skin is protected from the sun. For example, if your skin burns after 10 minutes and you use a sunscreen with SPF 15, that will allow you to stay in the sun without getting burned for approximately 150 minutes. However, it’s important to remember that SPF works differently on different skin types.
“You need a sensible approach to being in the sun, “says Dr. Sigrun Hallmeyer, a hematologist-oncologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. “You can limit your exposure to the sun by taking some simple steps that will protect you and your children.” Dr. Hallmeyer recommends:
- Limiting your midday sun exposure; by staying out of the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you will avoid about 75 percent of the most damaging rays.
- Paying attention to the clothing you wear. Loosely woven clothing will let UV rays through to your skin. Invest in specially–designed SPF clothing. You can wear a long-sleeved T-shirt or a zip up water shirt while swimming. Wear a tightly woven four to six inch brim hat to protect your face and neck.
- Choosing sunscreens that protect from both kinds of ultraviolet light-UVA and UVB (now also labeled as “broad spectrum”). SPF between 30 and 50 is ideal.
- Applying sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside. Apply the sunscreen with your swimsuit off; this will protect skin areas where fabric shifts. Always be generous with your sunscreen! The average adult will need at least an ounce (a shot glass full) to properly cover your skin.
- Remembering your lips and ears! Usually, a wax-based stick sunscreen protects these areas well.
- Being especially careful near water and snow, as the damaging sun rays are reflected by these surfaces and increase your exposure.
- Using sunscreen sprays are fine, but be careful not to inhale the fumes (especially when using on children).
“You’ll also want to throw away last year’s sunscreen,” says Dr. Hallmeyer. “It decays and is less effective. I also recommend a vitamin D supplement if you are going to be in the sun often this summer. Strict sun protection will increase your risk for vitamin D deficiency.”
In the end, you want to make sure you have a good balance of being in and out of the sun this summer. And don’t forget to ask your doctor about getting regularly screened for skin cancer.
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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.