Getting UV radiation from the sun isn’t always as obvious as the unpleasant sunburn that comes with it. Oftentimes, you are receiving sunlight damage unknowingly. This can happen when you are walking the dog or even the small journey to retrieve mail from the end of your driveway. Sun damage accumulates over time and repeatedly affects the skin when you don’t know it, like on a cloudy day as it permeates through the clouds or bounces off snow, sand, or water.
In order to protect you and your skin entirely, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you take the following precautions:
Pursue time in the shade.
The sun’s rays are most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During these peak hours, shade can be a hideaway. It is not necessary to spend these hours completely out of the sun, but making the decision to use an awning or an umbrella, walk on the shady side of the road, or make use of a covered porch or shady tree could be beneficial for your skin’s health, especially in the long run.
Unfortunately, shade isn’t going to protect your skin entirely in these circumstances. UV rays still have the ability to pass through branches or leaves and can reflect off other surfaces around you, and therefore can still affect your skin even in the shade.
Not only are sunburns uncomfortable and eventually create the appearance of leathery wrinkled skin, but they greatly increase your risk of skin cancer. If absorbed properly and not in excess, the sun can feel good and can actually sustain life providing much needed vitamin D. However, it is important to use sun protection to reduce your risk of skin damage. Not only should you use sunscreen on big days at the beach or long ball games, but also when walking the dog and other smaller excursions in the sun.
Avoid tanning, and never use UV tanning beds.
Every time a person uses a tanning bed or booth, it increases their risk of developing every type of skin cancer. Statistics show that if you use artificial tanning before the age of 35, it can increase your risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
Although some states have laws in place to protect minors by prohibiting their use of tanning facilities, other states do not. It can be very tempting for a teenager and many adults to act on that desire for a golden tan. But, it is more important to remember how damaging tanning beds are for your skin.
Cover up with clothing and accessories.
The protection that sunscreen offers can wear off over time, but clothing and other accessories do not. Clothing can provide a great shield between you and the sun’s rays. In fact, certain clothing is made with special fabric to provide high-tech protection while also allowing your skin to breath. A wide brim hat is also recommended because it helps cover your eyes, ears, face and neck. UV sunglasses are also made to shield your eyes from the sun. Long sleeves, pants and high neck clothing is also suggested to protect other areas of your body.
Clothing with the label “UPF,” have an extra protector factor built into the fabric for defense against the sun and can be very beneficial. Often these items also have a number indicating just how much sun will be able to penetrate through the clothing. For example, if a label reads, “UPF 50,” it means that 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation will actually reach your skin. However, there is going to be some exposed skin with any type of clothing. Because of this, it is important to apply and reapply sunscreen throughout periods of long exposure to the sun.
Decide what sunscreen is appropriate.
When participating in activities that cause an excessive amount of sweat or submersion in water, it is essential to reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. You should also apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go into the sun, preferably with an SPF of 30 or higher. It is advisable to use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen when partaking in outdoor activities for extended periods of time. And, even when there is no water or physical activity (sweating) involved it is important to re-apply your sunscreen every 3-4 hours.
Protect babies from the sun’s harmful rays.
Rather than applying sunscreen to a newborn’s fresh, sensitive skin, it is best to just keep them out of the sun or use alternative methods for protection. Ensure that the baby’s arms and legs, head and eyes are covered. For toddlers, you can take the same preventative clothing methods mentioned for adults along with the same application of sunscreen.
Examine your skin every month and visit a dermatologist annually.
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you self-examine your skin every month and see your dermatologist every year. The strongest defense against the sun and skin cancer is the use of sunscreen from a young age and throughout life. However, 1 in 5 Americans still develop skin cancer by the age of 70, so it is important to keep an eye out for anything suspicious even if you take all of the preventative measures. To know what to look for see our articles, “Early Detection of Skin Cancer – What to Look For” and “Types of Skin Cancer”.