Protecting yourself or someone you care for from the sun’s damaging rays is not just a summertime concern. Exposure to the sun’s damaging rays can happen any time of year. Winter skiers and fall hikers should be as wary of the sun's rays as visitors to the beach. People who work outdoors need to take precautions, too. We must protect our skin from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation - both the deeply-penetrating UVA and the shorter-wave UVB. To protect yourself or someone you care for do the following:
- Reduce time in the sun
- Dress properly
- Be Serious about Sunscreen
Reduce Time in the Sun
It’s important to limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. Even on an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays can get through the clouds. Stay in the shade as much as possible throughout the day.
Wear clothes that protect your body. If you plan on being outside on a sunny day, cover as much of your body as possible. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants. Sun-protective clothing is now available. However, the FDA only regulates such products if the manufacturer intends to make a medical claim. Consider using an umbrella for shade. Sun protective clothing can be obtained from the following:
Be Serious about Sunscreen
Check product labels to make sure you get:
- a "sun protection factor" (SPF) of 30 or more. SPF represents the degree to which a sunscreen can protect the skin from sunburn.
- "broad spectrum" protection—sunscreen that protects against all types of skin damage caused by sunlight: UVB radiation, which primarily causes sunburn, and UVA radiation, which contributes to skin cancer and early skin aging.
- water resistance—sunscreen that stays on your skin longer, even if it gets wet. Reapply water-resistant sunscreens as instructed on the label. No sunscreens are "waterproof" because all sunscreens eventually wash off.
Tips for Applying Sunscreen
- Apply the recommended amount evenly to all uncovered skin, especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands, and feet.
- Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun.
- If you don't have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head, or wear a hat.
- Reapply at least every two hours.
- Give babies and children extra care in the sun. Ask a health care professional before applying sunscreen to children under 6 months old.
- Apply sunscreen to children older than 6 months every time they go out.
Choosing a Sunscreen
Light is either absorbed by sunscreen chemicals or is reflected away from the skin, similar to a mirror or aluminum foil. When sunlight is absorbed by chemical sunscreens (such as benzones, amino benzoic acid and cinnamates), there are some concerns that they can generate free radicicals, which can also damage skin cells.
Physical blockers (minerals such as zinc and titanium) sit on the skin’s surface and reflect light and are not absorbed into the skin. For these reasons, dermatologists frequently recommend sunscreens based on physical blockers like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide."
A few sunscreen brands to consider are:
COTZ® Total Block SPF 58
Blue Lizard® Sensitive
Blue Lizard® Baby
Burnout SPF 30
Badger SPF 30
Vanicream™ Sunscreen SPF 50+
People with sensitive skin can react to many things including the chemicals in sunscreen, the preservatives, or even the base itself. Sun protective clothing avoids these issues.
Sunburn Alert: If you use any topical product that contains an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) it may increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunburn. Be sun smart: use sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and limit sun exposure while using this product and for a week afterward.
Source: Modified from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration