Some of the hottest months of the year are here, and people are spending time outside, enjoying the sunshine, producing vitamin D and soaking up the ultraviolet (UV) rays. Practicing sun safety can keep harmful sunburns and other risks away and keep the fun going.
Taking family vacations and trips to the pool can keep you busy, but make sure you make time to stock up on proper sun protection for time spent outdoors.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), the best way to prevent harmful effects from the sun is by protecting your skin. The following tips are some great ways to do so.
In a recent review of the AAD's "Be Sun Smart" tips, emergency medicine physicians Michael Marchetti, MD, and Kevin Roma, MD, from Meridian Health hospitals in New Jersey agreed that everyone needs some contact with the sun to produce vitamin D, which helps with the absorption of calcium for stronger and healthier bones.
However, sunburns and prolonged contact with UV rays can cause damage to the skin, eyes, and immune system and lead to cancer.
Use sunscreen on skin that may come in contact with the sun or may become sunburnt. Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 every two hours and after swimming or sweating, Dr. Roma suggested.
Test the sunscreen on your wrist before use. If your skin becomes irritated, choose a different brand.
"Unfortunately, many people simply choose not to use a daily sunscreen, neglect to use the proper amount ( 1 oz. or enough to fill a shot glass), or forget to reapply sunscreen every couple of hours," said Coyle S. Connolly, DO, Board Certified Dermatologist and President of Connolly Dermatology in New Jersey.
"Keep in mind that sunscreen is merely one component in a comprehensive sun protection plan. It is therefore a combination of broad spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen, sun protective clothing, hats, shade, sunglasses, and sun avoidance during peak hours which will provide the best possible protection from damaging ultraviolet light," Dr. Connolly told dailyRx News.
"Your dermatologist can answer specific questions regarding particular products (e.g., best sunscreen for sensitive skin contains zinc oxide/titanium dioxide) and other useful sun protective tips (e.g., tinted car window film blocks harmful UVA light)," he said.
“The best means of protecting yourself against the damaging effects of the sun is by limiting exposure and protecting the skin,” Dr. Marchetti said in a press release.
Wear Protective Clothing
According to the AAD, one of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun is by wearing clothing that completely covers the skin.
Dr. Marchetti suggested items like long-sleeve shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses whenever possible.
Most sunglasses and other protective eyewear can be found in retail stores and eyeglass specialty shops, as well as online. The AAD suggested looking at the product labels for UV-protection details and trying to find glasses that indicate 100 percent UV protection.
Consumers should keep in mind that both the darkness and color of sunglasses have nothing to do with their ability to block UV rays. Some popular sunglasses stores like Oakley, Ray-Ban and Fossil carry UV-protected sunglasses.
Shady Spots & Warning Labels
If possible, stay in the shade. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so find a shady spot to prevent overheating and sunburn.
If your shadow is shorter than you are, find a shady place or get indoors as soon as possible, the AAD recommends.
Also, many over-the-counter and prescription medications — like Benadryl, Accutane, Aleve and Celebrex — increase the skin’s sensitivity to UV rays. People taking these medications may develop a sunburn more quickly than normal. Be sure to read and follow medication labels.
With the rise in popularity of tanning, it’s no secret that people love the sun.
“But amidst this love for sun and sand, we sometimes forget to protect ourselves from long term harm,” Dr. Roma said in a press release.
The AAD suggested that people should avoid tanning. UV rays from the sun and tanning beds can cause wrinkling and skin cancer.
Use extra caution around sand and water. Make sure you dress properly and wear sunscreen. The sand and water reflect the sun’s UV rays, Dr. Marchetti said.
For sunburnt skin, taking a cool shower and using a moisturizer containing aloe vera can help ease the pain, Dr. Roma noted. Aloe vera is a plant that produces a substance often used in cosmetics and skin creams.
Dr. Roma suggested taking aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, redness and discomfort sunburns can cause.
However, the AAD suggested putting a cold, damp towel on sunburnt skin for 10 to 15 minutes a few times every day. If you develop blisters, don't pop them because open sores can potentially become infected.
“It’s also a good idea to drink plenty of water to help your body recover,” Dr. Marchetti added.