28 June 2023
It’s about the middle of summer and no one wants to be THAT person who is so pale they are mistaken for an alien. Sunshine provides a good dose of Vitamin D and it is important to be physically active. At the same time it is important to take precautions against skin cancer, which is the result of excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. This invisible radiation can be produced from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. They are produced on cloudy and cool days. They are reflected off water, sand, and snow, as well as other surfaces. They are most prevalent during the mid day from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is suggested that you check the daily UV rating that is forecasted and if it is 3 or higher, it is time to use some protection.
The Food and Drug Administration does not recommend the use of sunscreen for children aged 6 months or younger. If you do take your infant out, be sure they are wearing protective clothing and a hat with a brim. Keep them in the shade as much as possible or with their stroller awning down.
There are any number of sunscreen products available. Narrow down your selection by the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) rating. This will tell you how well the product will filter out the UV rays that are so damaging to skin. The higher or larger the SPF number the greater the filtering and protection. Select a brand that is a broad spectrum sunscreen that will filter both UVA and UVB. Make sure it has an SPF rating of 15 or higher. If you have a job or hobby that leaves you outdoors for most or a great part of the day or have sensitive skin, up it to 30 SPF. If you have been diagnosed with a melanoma or pre-cancerous cells, go for 50 SPF. Check with your primary care team for your skin type or with a dermatologist.
Be sure to cover all exposed skin. So, if you are at a pool or the beach, ask for help getting it on your back or other difficult to reach areas. Use a thick layer. Reapply if you are out for more than two hours or have been swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Nothing lasts forever. Check the expiration date. If the expiration date has worn off the bottle, remember that it generally has a shelf life of only three years. If it has been exposed to high temperatures, like in your bag at the beach or stored in the car all day, its life span is shortened. When in doubt, pick up a new bottle.
To help reduce damage from the sun, head for the shade whenever possible. This could be a porch, under an umbrella, gazebo, etc. Even in the shade, it is best to wear protective clothing and sunscreen.
The best type of clothing for sun protection is a tight weave fabric, long sleeves, and long pants or skirts. In fact, some clothing items are internationally certified for UV protection. In the heat of summer, this may not be practical but remember that a wet T-shirt offers less protection than a dry one.
A canvas hat with a brim all the way around will offer shade to the majority of your face and neck. A baseball type cap only shades the face and will leave the delicate tissue around your ears exposed as well as the back of your neck.
If you wear prescription glasses, you can order lenses that have some degree of UV coating. Sunglasses, prescription or not, will be your best choice. Wrap-around design will not only protect that delicate skin around the eye but will block the rays from sneaking in around the side.
If you are prone to sunburning or are exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, schedule a skin check with your primary care provider or ask for a referral to a dermatologist.