Protect Your Skin While Having Fun in the Sun
Warm weather is here and many youth and their families are busy enjoying seasonal activities like swimming, fishing and baseball. However, many get caught up in the excitement of being outdoors and forget to take care of their skin, which can put them at risk for permanent skin damage and skin cancer.
It is no secret that too much sun exposure can cause sunburn, and applying sunscreen can help prevent sunburn. However, it can be difficult purchasing a sunscreen that works and figuring out how to use it properly.
With so many options to choose from in the store, it can be hard to choose a sunscreen with adequate protection. When purchasing sunscreen, you should look for a “Broad Spectrum” product with UVB and UVA protection. UVB rays cause sun burn and UVA rays cause damage that can be undetected and eventually cause skin cancer. If you use a sunscreen that has only UVB protection, you will just be preventing sunburn and damaging the deeper layers of your skin.
Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. Last Summer, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released new guidelines for purchasing sunscreen. The guidelines state that consumers should not use sunscreens with a SPF number less than 15. Sunscreens with an SPF of 50 or higher offer the same amount of protection. For a list of some of the top rated sunscreens by Consumer Reports Magazine, visit www.consumerreports.org.
Knowing how to apply sunscreen is also important. The FDA states that 1 ounce of sunscreen should be applied 15 minutes before you go outside and every two hours you are in the sun. They also point out that no sunscreen is waterproof or sweat proof, so always reapply after swimming and non-water physical activities. The Center for Disease and Control stresses the importance of applying sunscreen accurately. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your skin looks “a little pink” today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. The CDC also points out that any change in the color of your skin after time outside – whether sunburn or suntan – indicates damage from UV rays. So even if you tan, you should still apply a broad spectrum sunscreen that protects you from UVB and UVA rays. They also state that skin of all colors can be damaged by the sun. Also, apply sunscreen even when it is cool and cloudy. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them – and sometimes only slightly.
Sun Safety Tips
Spending time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. To reduce this risk, consumers should regularly use sun protection measures including:
- Use sunscreens with broad spectrum SPF values of 15 or higher regularly and as directed.
- Limit time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun; for example, long-sleeved shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brimmed hats.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours, more often if you’re sweating or jumping in and out of the water.
Written By: Ben Knowles