The summer weather is one of the highlights of the season, bringing with
it the promise of bronze skin and long days at the beach or by the pool.
However, the reality is that too much sunlight vastly increases the risk
of skin cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, five or more
sunburns can double your risk of getting melanoma at some point in your life.
In addition, the skin damage that is usually associated with age (discoloration,
leathery appearance, etc.) often results from prolonged exposure to the
sun. Your tan today may result in extensive damage in your old age. However,
there are steps you can take to lessen your risk while you enjoy your summer.
Cover Yourself with Clothing
Clothing is a far surer way of protecting yourself from the sun than sunscreen.
While wearing long-sleeves or long pants can be difficult because of the
summer heat, prolonged days in the sun may require extra coverage. One
way to offset the heat of wearing more clothing is to wear breathable
materials, like cotton, but with a slightly dark color.
The best clothing for protection from the sun is dry, non-white, and has
a tight weave (or is a thicker material). Some clothing come with a UPF
number—or an Ultraviolet Protection Factor. This is a number that
measures how much the clothing item protects you from the sun. Other ways
to protect yourself from the sun is to use wraparound sunglasses (or ones
that have large lenses) as well as broad-brimmed hats. Any kind of protection
is good, as long as it keeps your skin out of direct sunlight.
Most health organizations recommend using a sunscreen of an SPF of 15 or
higher. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) measures how much UV-light your
sunscreen shields your skin from. Higher SPF is good for people with sensitive
skin, but remember to buy sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection. Broad
spectrum protection means your sunscreen keeps out both short-wave and
long-wave ultraviolet radiation.
In addition, remember to reapply sunscreen every few hours. Sunscreen protection
tends to last about two hours on average, but it’s even less in
situations where you’re sweating heavily or swimming. While some
sunscreen claims to be waterproof, there’s a limit to how waterproof
a skin-applied substance can be when you’re swimming.
Find Some Shade
The sunlight is at its strongest during the hours of 10am-4pm when it will
cause the most short- and long-term damage to your skin. Simply sitting
in the shade will help prevent the sunlight from damaging your skin’s
DNA and increasing your chances of developing skin cancer. The shade also
reduces the amount of reflected sunlight that comes off of sand, glass,
water, or other reflective surfaces. In addition to being more comfortable,
seeking the shade or carrying an umbrella could significantly help keep
your skin healthy.
Enjoy the Sunset
Similarly to seeking shade, enjoying the day when the sun shines less intensely
is a way of promoting your skin’s health. While some activities
such as swimming are far more popular in the heat of the day, enjoying
these activities earlier or later in the day allows you to lessen the
chances of burning or tanning excessively.
Give Yourself a Safe Summer
The summer represents a season of enjoyment, relaxation, and good memories
with friends. While it’s worth it to be cautious in the sun, safety
doesn’t mean you have to have less fun. In general, best practices
are about being prepared and practical while understanding that you are
not invincible. Enjoy the summer’s day after 5pm (or enjoy the summer
nights), cover your limbs when you’re not swimming, and enjoy yourself
in places with plenty of natural shade.
This article contains general information about medical conditions and
treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as
such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis
of a physician.
If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should
consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.