School is out and summer is officially upon us!
While it is easy to get caught up making plans to be outside all day, sun protection is one piece of preparation you must remember. One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Read these tips to help protect yourself and your family this summer!
What is harmful about the sun?
It is important to protect your skin from harmful ultra violet (UV) rays.
There are three types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone and do not reach the earth’s surface. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are commonly associated with skin-aging and wrinkling. UVB rays cause damage to the top layer of skin and create sun burn.
Both UVA and UVB rays damage the skin in a manner that increases a person’s risk for skin cancer.
How do I protect myself?
There are many ways to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, and you can combine several techniques throughout the summer.
Decide What to Wear
Your clothes play a role in protection by creating a barrier between your skin and the sun.
Some companies make clothing that has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) that blocks out a fraction of the sun’s rays. Dark colored materials and tightly woven fabrics also help to reflect more rays. A hat with a brim can serve as a physical barrier between you and the sun. UV-blocking sunglasses can help protect your eyes.
Know the Sun’s Schedule
UVB rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm from April through October in the Northern Hemisphere. However, some reflective surfaces such as water, snow, or ice nearly double your sun exposure, making sun protection a vital part of fall, winter, and spring, too.
While it may not be practical to completely avoid the sun during these times, it is important to remember to apply sunscreen more frequently and seek shade during these high exposure times. UVB rays are unable to penetrate glass, so sitting by a sunny window will protect you from sunburn, but still makes you susceptible to UVA rays which can contribute to skin aging. Sunscreen should always be applied 15 minutes prior to going out in the sun.
Choose a Sunscreen
There are many factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen.
You will want to purchase a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum coverage, meaning it covers both UVA and UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measurement of how long it will take the skin to redden. However, SPF can also be correlated to the percentage of the sun’s rays that are deflected. SPF 30 reflects 97% of the sun’s rays, and that percentage grows as the SPF increases. However, there is no sunscreen available that protects you from 100% of the sun’s rays.
Another important factor to look for is water resistance. Sunscreens are rated as water resistant or very water resistant. Water resistant sunscreens last around 40 minutes when worn by a person who is sweating or in the water. Very water resistant sunscreens last up to 80 minutes.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using at least 1 ounce of sunscreen to cover the body of an average size person (larger people should apply more). It is important to thoroughly cover all exposed skin areas including lips, ears, feet, and hands. Sunscreen should be reapplied approximately every 2 hours, or more frequently depending on the water resistance rating.
At Sona, we carry a variety of sunscreen products. Sun Bum offers broad spectrum sunscreen with an 80-minute water resistance rating. All of their products are also free of fragrance, parabens, oil, and PABA. Many of these ingredients can cause skin irritation; therefore, people with sensitive skin may find that Sun Bum products better suit their needs.
Another product we carry at Sona is called Blue Lizard. One neat thing about Blue Lizard’s packaging is that the cap turns blue when exposed to UV rays. If you have a blue cap, then you should apply sunscreen!
Blue Lizard is also broad spectrum and has a water resistance rating of 80 minutes. One of the ingredients in Blue Lizard products is zinc oxide, which covers both UVA and UVB rays. When you have an image of a life guard with a white sunscreen on their nose, that is zinc oxide. Zinc oxide is excellent sunscreen, but it can leave a white residue on skin.
I got a sunburn, now what?
There is no sunscreen that provides 100% protection from UV rays. Despite multiple applications and following all the previous tips, you may find that you’ve developed a sunburn. Below are a few tips on how to treat sunburns.
- Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are anti-inflammatories that can help reduce the swelling and redness caused by a sunburn
- Hydrocortisone cream is an over the counter steroid cream that can also decrease redness and inflammation
- Aloe Vera and Vitamin E can help soothe the skin following a sunburn. Sun Bum’s “Cool Down” spray helps restore the skin’s natural moisture balance. The light mist is quickly absorbed, helping leave the skin smooth and soft after a sunburn.
- Moisturizing with a lotion can also help reduce dryness and discomfort
- Drink plenty of water. Sunburns can attract the body’s water and cause dehydration. It is important to drink plenty of water while in the sun and afterwards, especially if you have a sunburn
- Do not pop blisters. This could lead to infections.
If your sunburn begins to blister over a large surface area, or if you have chills, a headache, or a fever, you should consult a doctor.
We hope you enjoy this summer, and make wise decisions to protect your skin while enjoying the outdoors! If you have any additional questions, please feel free to stop by Sona any time or give us a call at (828) 298-3636.