Ah, summer, the season for beach weekends, BBQs, and basking in the beautiful sunshine. Because of all that sun, it’s also the season when a lot of us are suddenly reminded to stock up on sunscreen and pick out a new beach hat. But what if we told you that sun protection is important all year round?
Protection from the sun is important, here’s how to stay safe
There’s no two ways about it – ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from the sun’s rays can lead to skin cancer, and it can take as few as 15 minutes for skin to be damaged if it isn’t protected from UV rays. And while there are some people who may be more likely to get skin cancer from UV rays – people with lighter skin; with red or blonde hair; with blue or green eyes; with skin that burns, freckles, or gets red easily; or those who have a family member who has had skin cancer – people of all skin types can get sun damage and skin cancer. And those rays don’t quit when summer ends.
So no matter the season, no matter where you live, no matter your skin type, it’s important to be thoughtful about sun protection. Just what can you do to stay safe? We’ve got you covered with some helpful tips on how to stay safe from the sun.
Seek out the shade
The advice is simple, but it’s true. One of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun is to stay out of the sun. Okay, great! But… what if you still want to get outside? It’s recommended that you keep out of the sun when rays are strongest and most harmful – in the continental U.S. this is typically midday, from around 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., particularly in late spring and early summer – and seek shade as needed.
One quick trick for knowing if it’s prime time to hang out in the shade is to just look down. Is your shadow shorter than you are? If so, then the sun is high, the rays are strong, and you should seek out shade!
And if you want to engage in outdoor activities that you can’t exactly do in the shade, it’s worth it to see if you can do them before or after midday – so maybe that means you go for your daily run before 10 a.m. or play basketball after 4 p.m. If that’s not possible, be sure to take breaks in the shade and add these other sun protection tips to the mix.
Get into gear
Protective sun gear, that is! It might not always feel the best to cover up in especially hot weather, but if possible, that physical barrier can offer you some protection. Certainly, there are increasingly more clothes on the market made of fabrics that offer more notable sun protection – like ratings for sunscreen, these garments are rated with an ultraviolet protective factor, or UPF – but even ordinary clothing blocks some rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric are best, as are dry garments, and dark colors are better than light colors.
But gear goes beyond just clothing. A hat with a wide brim can help protect not only your face but also your neck and ears from the sun. Much like with clothing, you can buy hats with a UPF rating – but if you can’t go that route, hats made of a tightly woven fabric (as opposed to something like a straw hat with noticeable holes in the weave) work best.
Don’t forget about your eyes! In bright sunlight, sunglasses protect your eyes and the delicate skin surrounding them from UV rays, which can help reduce the risk of cataracts. Most sunglasses made in the U.S. block the two types of UV rays that can cause cancer – UVA and UVB rays – which is great news.
And don’t forget the sunscreen!
Even if it’s not especially sunny out, during the day the sun is still emitting powerful rays. So it’s a good idea to get in the habit of using a broad spectrum sunscreen – with an SPF of at least 15, and the American Academy of Dermatology actually recommends sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher – on a daily basis, before you even head outside. “SPF” stands for “sun protection factor,” and this is a measurement of how long and how much a sunscreen will protect you from UV rays, though no sunscreen can protect you 100%. “Broad spectrum” means that the sunscreen can protect from both UVA and UVB rays.
Keep in mind that sunscreen doesn’t last all day, so if you’ll be out in the sun for quite a while, reapply after being in the sun for more than two hours or – depending on your outdoor activities that day – after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Cloudy? Cool? Those sneaky UV rays are out regardless, so use that sunscreen!
Put it all together
Keep in mind that it’s best to use these methods of sun protection in combination. Going to the beach? Slather on that sunscreen and reapply regularly, wear a coverup when you’re not swimming – plus a hat and sunglasses too! – and hang out under an umbrella as much as you can midday to limit your sun exposure. With all of these options at your disposal, you should have no problem keeping protected. So get started with good sun protection habits now, and keep in practice all year long – your skin will thank you for it!
- “How Can I Protect My Children from the Sun?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 13 2017. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/children.htm.
- “How to select a sunscreen.” American Academy of Dermatology. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent/how-to-select-a-sunscreen.
- “Sunlight” National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, April 26 2017. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/sunlight
- “Sun Safety.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 13 2017. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm.
- “Sunscreen FAQs.” American Academy of Dermatology. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs.
- “Sunscreen for your Sun Day.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/pdf/sunscreen4sunday.pdf.
- “The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Guide to Sunscreens.” Skin Cancer Foundation. The Skin Cancer Foundation, Inc., July 3 2012. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/the-skin-cancer-foundations-guide-to-sunscreens.
- “What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 13 2017. Retrieved December 18 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm.