As you enjoy warmer and longer days this summer, it’s important to practice good preventive self-care in the sun.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation poses a real threat if ignored. Exposure is the main cause of skin cancer and can also contribute to eye disorders including cataracts and retinal-tissue damage. Prolonged time in the sun without proper protection can also lead to premature aging of the skin and even suppressed immunity.
How do you stay safe? Start by keeping in mind these recommendations.
1. Wear sunscreen. And not just any sunscreen. Choose products labeled for broad-spectrum protection (meaning protection against both UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays), an SPF of 30 or higher, and, if possible, water-resistant. Apply approximately one ounce every two hours. While no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s radiation, SPF 30 blocks 97%. It’s also important to note that while the sunny days of summer are the most obvious time to use sunscreen, it’s best to wear year-round, even on cloudy days.
2. Seek shade. Especially during the midday hours when the sun is strongest, it’s advisable to use some kind of shelter, whether it’s a tree in the park or an umbrella on the beach. It’s particularly important to do so between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
3. Cover up. The more clothed you are, the more protected. While some activities (like swimming) are going to leave more of your skin exposed, try to wear clothing when possible. Generally, dark colors provide more protection than light colors, and tightly woven fabrics are preferable to loosely woven fabrics. You can also seek out clothes that carry a “UV protection factor (UPF)” label. These garments are manufactured with sun safety in mind.
4. Hats help. Hats with two- or three-inch brims can be helpful in giving your neck, ears, and face added protection from the sun. If you don’t have a hat with a brim that goes all the way around, tucking a bandana or handkerchief into the back of a baseball cap is a smart fix.
5. Use sunglasses. The wrap-around varieties are best because they protect your eyes and the surrounding skin from every angle. Make sure to read the label if you’re buying a pair. While “cosmetic” glasses block around 70% of UV rays, glasses that “meet ANSI UV requirements” block closer to 99%. As EHE Health’s Dr. Seema Sarin says, “protecting your eyes and vision is really important — especially [for] people with light-colored eyes.” If you wear UV-blocking contact lenses, it’s wise to wear sunglasses over them.
These tips can help protect you from the dangers of ultraviolet rays. Paying attention to your local UV Index is also a good idea if you’re planning to spend a lot of the day outdoors. With good habits around preventive health in place, you can relax and enjoy being outside while preserving long-term skin and eye health.