Ahhh summertime! The wonderful time of year to be outside—it’s pool season, beach season, vacation season. The sun hangs a little higher in the sky, stays out to play a little longer and its sweet rays travel down to the earth to warm us up and keep us outside. But beware, those sweet rays are hiding something potentially dangerous and it’s called UV radiation (or UV rays).
There are 3 types of UV rays, but only two of them really come into play–UVA and UVB. While most sunburns are caused by UVB rays, both types of radiation damage our skin and can lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer and one type, melanoma, can be very serious.
Now for the good news, if you want to enjoy your summer and the sun, there are easy ways to protect your skin from the sun’s wonderful yet pesky rays. The easiest way is by covering up with clothing while in the in direct sunlight. I know what you’re thinking, “who wants to wear a long sleeve shirt at the pool or the beach, or stayed covered up in the hot sun all summer long?” Not to worry my friend! There is another common option that will protect your skin without wearing those hot, stuffy layers and it is called sunscreen.
Despite some claims that you may have seen or heard on the news or the terrifying labyrinth we call the internet, sunscreen is safe and effective when used properly. Below are our tips for buying and using sunscreen to protect our body’s largest organ, the skin.
- When you’re in the sun use sunscreen—no ifs, ands, or buts! Put it on! Seriously, I mean it. Lather up.
- When choosing a sunscreen, buy one that says broad spectrum, which means it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
- Also, when choosing a sunscreen, pick one that is at least 30 SPF. Another tip is not to shell out a lot of money for the really high SPF products (70, 80, 90, 100). They don’t make a difference. Stick with a sunscreen with an SPF between 30 and 50 and you’ll be a-ok.
- Make sure to apply enough sunscreen and reapply it often. Use at least an ounce (shot glass full) and reapply every couple of hours and after you get out of the water (ocean, pool) or after sweating.
- There are many active ingredients that can be used in sunscreen split into two groups—chemical and physical. The “chemical” side includes ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, homosalate, so on and so forth. There are only two ingredients in the “physical” group—zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. The “chemical” ingredients are the ones you may have heard of in the news causing skin irritation. If you’re worried about these ingredients then go with a sunscreen that only has the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
- Watch out for the spray sunscreens, especially for kids, because they can accidentally be inhaled and don’t always provide an even coat.
- Grab your sunscreen, rub it in, and go enjoy the sunshine!