If your summer days are filled with park picnics, beach days, and camping trips, then read on to top up your sun safety knowledge!
It’s official: summer’s here! This, of course, equates to one thing—fun in the sun.
However, fun in the sun can turn into the not-so-fun prickly, tight, overly warm feeling that heralds the arrival of sunburn if we’re not careful. Plus, too much sun exposure can lead to a summer-ruining list of difficulties, including premature skin aging, cataracts, and, yes, skin cancer.
So, next time you head outside …
Grab a hat
While baseball caps are a good start, ambitious shade seekers should opt instead for a floppy, wide brimmed hat. Head toppers with brims that wrap all the way around and that are at least 4 in (10 cm) wide are most effective, since they shade our ears, necks, and hair as well as our eyes.
Now’s not the time to reach for that trendy, crocheted hat, though—holey hats are wholly ineffective at blocking out UV light. Opt instead for something with a tight weave.
Just as they can contribute to farmer’s tans and other tan lines, shirts, shorts, pants, and skirts are all great at protecting us against the sun’s damaging rays.
When ramping up your summer attire, make sure to choose loose, tightly woven materials, and make sure that any elastic clothing—leggings, for instance—fit properly, as overstretching can lower your sun protection.
Seek out shade(s)
When picking out sunglasses, look for labels stating that that the lenses have UV 400 protection, 99 or 100 percent UVA and UVB protection, or that they meet ANSI Z80.3 requirements. Keep in mind that the coating to protect eyes from UV rays is clear, so darker glasses don’t necessarily equate to better sun protection.
Those of us who spend a lot of time on (or near) the water may also want to opt for polarized lenses. They make reading cellphone screens more difficult, but they help to cut down the glare that reflects off water and other surfaces.
And, if you feel like it, you can even make a witty one-liner each time you put them on or take them off.
Slather on sunscreen
Generally, people should use an SPF of at least 15, though paler folks (including yours truly) might want to reach for a bottle that has an SPF of at least 30.
When shopping for sunscreen, make sure to find one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays—while only UVB rays cause the unpleasant and colourful side effects that we all know about, both can damage our skin cells and contribute to skin cancer and other types of nastiness.
Also make sure to reach for sunscreens that don’t use chemical UV filters such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, since they can be absorbed into the skin and may disrupt the body’s natural hormone regulation. Instead, look for mineral sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
Finally, don’t be shy when it comes to slathering up! Most adults need about 1 oz (30 mL) of sunscreen to cover themselves, including all those oft overlooked spots such as the ears, nose, tops of the feet, and back of the neck. Make a habit of reapplying every two hours, or after swimming or perspiring.