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Make Summer Fun and Safe with Practical Sun Protection Tips

Make Summer Fun and Safe with Practical Sun Protection Tips

July 14, 2023 Posted in: Health & Wellness  6 minute read time

 

Summer is here and well underway. Whether you’re the camping or beach-going type, sun protection should be top of mind. Choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher is an excellent place to start, but there’s more to sun protection than meets the eye. For example, did you know that even when applied correctly, sunscreen doesn’t completely block ultraviolet (UV) rays? 

So, what offers the best sun protection? It’s a combination of things, including wearing the right hats, sunglasses and sun-protective clothing. These accessories don’t just complete your summer look. These fun-in-the-sun essentials can help protect against skin cancers, most of which are caused by too much exposure to UV rays. Follow these tips and pack accordingly for your next vacation or staycation.

Apply sunscreen the right way.

The general recommendation is to apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before going outdoors. In doing so, you allow your skin to absorb the sunscreen for uniform protection. Most sunscreen bottles tell you to apply sunscreen “liberally.” That means applying sunscreen to all bare skin, including areas that are easy to miss, such as eyelids, ears, top of your feet, neck, nose, hairline and hands. Dermatologists recommend lip balms with an SPF of 30 or higher for your lips.

If you don’t know how much sunscreen to apply, one to two ounces–or enough to fill one shot glass–is a good rule for most adults. For hard-to-reach areas like your back and shoulders, it’s best to ask someone else to apply it to you. When outdoors, reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours or after swimming or sweating. You should do this even if your sunscreen is water resistant, which means it can hold up in sweat or water for up to 80 minutes. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there's no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. Check your sunscreen label to ensure it is broad spectrum and water resistant, and follow the label’s directions.

If you prefer sprays over lotion sunscreens, take your time spraying and rubbing them in. With sprays, it’s harder to know how much is enough. A good rule of thumb is to spray each area for about six seconds or until your skin glistens. Another fun fact? A typical 6-ounce bottle of spray sunscreen contains six applications. Rub it thoroughly to get easy-to-miss spots–even if the bottle says “no-rubbing-needed.” Avoid spraying sunscreen in windy areas and hold the nozzle close to the skin.

Repel bugs, but what goes on first?

Always apply sunscreen first, then an insect repellent, to let the sunscreen soak in and be absorbed by the skin. Use a bug spray containing DEED, oil of lemon eucalyptus, picaridin, IR3535 or 2-undecanoate. Unlike sunscreen, you don't need as much repellent or as often. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against products that contain both. It’s best to buy these products separately, as sunscreen needs to be applied generously and often. Read and follow the label instructions, especially if applying to children. When in doubt, ask your dermatologist or your children’s pediatrician.

What about your eyes? Can they get sunburned?

Too much sun exposure without eye protection can burn your eyes; in the same way, too much sun can burn your skin. A sunburned eye, often called photokeratitis, could be painful but is temporary—like a sunburn. Symptoms may include redness, sensitivity to bright light and eyelid twitching. You may also notice blurry vision or the feeling of something stuck in your eye. The longer you are exposed to UV rays, the more severe your symptoms can be.

To protect your eyes, choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100% UVA and UVB light and wear them even on cloudy days since clouds don’t block UV light. Keep in mind that the darkness of the lens doesn’t make a difference in terms of protection. In fact, many light-colored tint sunglasses can offer the same UV protection as very dark lenses. Size, however, does matter. Consider buying a pair of oversized or wraparound sunglasses with curved lenses and wear them along with a wide-brimmed hat. When in doubt, ask your eye doctor for help choosing the right sunglasses for you.

No such thing as too much shade or protection.

Unless you plan to take a long nap under a giant umbrella, you will probably be on the move in your upcoming summer adventure. Complete your summer look with oversized sunglasses and pair them with a hat. But not just any hat. Wide-brimmed hats protect you better because they surround your entire head, including the back and sides of the neck and face. Baseball caps and visors aren’t as effective. They only cover your forehead and half of your face, exposing your ears and the back of the neck, where skin cancers commonly develop. The material matters, too. According to the American Cancer Society, hats made of tightly woven fabric generally provide more protection than straw hats.

Some hats, shirts and swim trunks provide Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). Sun-protective garments with a UPF of 30 or higher can shield you from the sun while on the move, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. UPF measures the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate your clothes and reach your skin. Some clothes and hats are marked with UPF labels, which indicate exactly how much of the sun’s rays the fabric can shield. Look for the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation in the tag. You can also check in your closet for dark or bright colors, preferably long-sleeve tops and pants. Loose-fitting clothes are better than tight clothing because they’re less likely to stretch and reduce the protection it offers.

The bottom line on sun protection: you can’t overdo it.

Hats and sunglasses may sound like trendy summer accessories, but they can also protect you from harmful UV rays. Wear proper clothing, hats and sunglasses, especially if you plan to be outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest. When shopping for sunscreen, worry less about the brand and more about whether it will protect you from UVA and UVB rays. The best way to tell if your sunscreen is approved by the FDA is to look for “broad spectrum” on the label and an SPF of 30 or higher. Call your primary care doctor if you have questions or concerns about your skin.

Sources:

Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun: From Sunscreen to Sunglasses | FDA

Prevent Tick and Mosquito Bites | Division of Vector-Borne Diseases | NCEZID | CDC

Eye Protection - The Skin Cancer Foundation

How to apply sunscreen (aad.org)

How to use stick and spray sunscreens (aad.org)

Prevent Mosquito Bites | Zika virus | CDC

Sunscreen FAQs (aad.org)

Sun Protective Clothing - The Skin Cancer Foundation

Staying healthy starts with a strong relationship with your doctor. Primary care providers are here to listen, to lean on and to provide the expert care to keep you and your family well. Need a provider? Find a provider online or schedule an appointment.

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