As the days grow longer and warmer, you may find yourself soaking in the sunshine for a few more hours each day. This has many health benefits from improving your mood to increasing your vitamin D absorption, but there is a key caveat – you must protect your skin against sun damage. Here are four ways you can stay safe while enjoying the outdoors this summer.
Apply Sunscreen (Even on Cloudy Days!)
While this may seem like the most obvious way to protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancer, you should ensure that you are using the appropriate SPF level and reapplying at the correct intervals. Sunscreen protects your skin from UV rays which cause burns and potentially skin cancer. Because UV rays are reflected off water particles, they can actually be even more harmful on cloudy or overcast days. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more for your face and body, and reapply often on days when you are outdoors. Make sure the sunscreen is not expired or more than three years old, as it will no longer be effective.
A recent FDA study also revealed that many of the common ingredients in chemical-based sunscreens (which absorb UV rays rather than repel them) are also absorbed into the bloodstream at levels above what the FDA deems “safe.” Look for products that use minerals such as zinc instead. These minerals sit atop the skin and reflect UV rays like a mirror on your body, but they are not absorbed into your body.
Wear Protective Clothing
On days that you plan to be in the sun for a few hours or more, choose your attire carefully to ensure you are protected from UV rays. If your job requires you to be outside, try to wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts. For those days at the beach or pool, bring a t-shirt or cover-up to wear when you are not in the water. Dark clothing provides more protection from UV rays, and many manufacturers are now creating clothing with an SPF 30 rating or more.
Cover Your Head
It is easy to overlook caring for our scalp on days spent outside, but your head actually needs to be covered as well! Look for a wide-brimmed hat in a woven fabric without holes. Straw hats are often popular in the summer due to their breathability, but a wide weave will still let UV rays through. Wide-brimmed hats are a great choice because you benefit from your entire head and shoulders being shaded. A baseball cap is another good option, but be sure to apply a mineral-based broad spectrum sunscreen to your neck and ears.
Don’t Forget Sunglasses
Sunglasses do more than simply prevent you from squinting on a bright day – they also help protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the chance of developing cataracts. Any pair purchased in the U.S., regardless of the price point, will most likely include UV-blocking lenses. Pairs with larger lenses, wrap-around sides, or wider arms will also block rays that can creep in from other angles. Similar to sunscreen, you should wear sunglasses even on overcast days.
While each of these practices is good to implement on its own, it is ideal to combine sunscreen, protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses for full-coverage UV protection. As you make plans to spend days outdoors, be sure you are caring for your skin. If needed, don’t be afraid to look for shade or bring a portable shade tent for extra protection. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, but it is also one of the most easily prevented if proper sun safety measures are followed. Reduce your risk today by following these steps this summer!