July is National Sun Safety Month, and as the weather heats up, so do your chances of getting a painful and dangerous burn. There is no way to avoid sun exposure completely, and there are many reasons that sunlight can be very beneficial to your health. Not only does it help your body produce healthy vitamin D, but it can also help with stress, mood balance, and sleep. However, while you are outside soaking in those rays, remember that there is a healthy and unhealthy way to spend time in the sun. Too much sun exposure can cause burns, premature aging of the skin and heighten your risk of skin cancer. Follow this helpful guide to make sure you stay safe while enjoying the summer heat.
No matter your skin tone, the sun can be dangerous and burning can cause future health issues. Sunscreen is one of the most straightforward steps you can take towards sun protection, but how and when you use it is crucial. First, make sure that you are applying sunscreen daily, not just for a trip to the beach. Daily exposure without sunscreen can cause as much damage as a bad burn. Ensure you use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, and remember to grab a lip balm that also contains SPF. If you know you will be spending a lot of time in the sun, you should use extra SPF and make sure to choose a sunscreen that is water and sweat-resistant. Reapply frequently and even more often if you are spending time in the water. Sunscreen does expire and loses its potency over time, so check those dates and make sure to buy new products yearly.
Spend Some Time in the Shade
The sun’s rays are strongest from 10 am to 4 pm daily, so try to schedule outdoor activities before and after that time. If you can’t avoid the intense rays, make sure you seek the shade of trees, porches, and umbrellas when possible. Check the label of your umbrella to make sure that it has a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 30 or more.
Cover Up When Outdoors
When swimming, consider wearing a Rash Guard. Rash Guards are made of polyester and stretchy material that usually have a built-in UPF. If you aren’t in the water, try to wear a loose coverup with built-in UPF as often as possible to give your skin a break. The darker the color and more tightly woven the fabric, the better protection offered to your skin. The face, ears, scalp, and neck are familiar places to find skin cancer because they are often forgotten. Give these areas extra protection by wearing a hat that has a brim of three or more inches all the way around. Though woven hats can be stylish, they don’t offer the protection that a tightly woven darker hat does.
Wear Shades (Even When You Are in the Shade)
The eyes are a very delicate part of the face, and the skin around them is some of the thinnest on the body. Wear a pair of sunglasses to help protect the area around your eyes. However, sunglasses pull double duty by also protecting your eyes from cataracts. For sunglasses, darker doesn’t always mean better. Look for a shade with a larger frame that covers more of your face and eye area and has a label that specifies UVA and UVB protection. Don’t make assumptions about sunglasses that don’t have labels.
Check Your Medications
Some medications may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Typical examples are antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants, acne medications, anti-inflammatories, and blood pressure medications. In addition, certain skincare products and facials can cause skin sensitivity while using or for days after. Check with your doctor when you start a new medication, check your skincare products’ labels, and make sure to follow sun exposure guidelines.
Avoid Tanning Beds at All Costs
There is no such thing as safe indoor tanning. Tanning beds and sunlamps damaged skin through exposure to UVA and UVB rays. It can also increase your chances of skin cancer. Just remember, even if you don’t burn, it doesn’t mean you aren’t causing damage to your skin. So if you still need that “just got back from the beach” glow, try a gradual self-tanner.
I Got a Sunburn- Now What?
Even if you follow all the rules, accidents can happen. Treat your sunburned skin by drinking lots of water, taking cool showers, using a lotion with aloe vera, taking ibuprofen, and keeping your sunburned skin covered from the sun until healed. Make sure not to peel or pick at your sunburn, and give it plenty of rest.