Most of us feel like we’re doing a pretty good job protecting our skin if, at the beginning of an outing to the beach, we slap on some sunscreen and then enjoy the rest of the day. In reality, that just doesn’t cut it.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer—a sobering statistic that should prompt all of us to make sure we’re adequately protecting ourselves. Here are eight summer sun safety tips.
1. Apply broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen and make sure you use enough to do the job (about a shot glass worth). Cloudy outside? The Skin Cancer Foundation says that clouds block as little as 20 percent of UV rays. In fact, UV rays can reflect off a cloud’s edge, actually intensifying the rays.
2. Know your numbers—and make purchases accordingly. All sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” block out UVA rays. To block out UVB rays, make sure your sunscreen has an SPF of 30 or higher. The higher the SPF, the more you’re protected, although the difference diminishes the higher the SPF. For example, SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97 percent, and SPF 100 about 99 percent.
3. Face it: It’s almost impossible to cover every inch of your body with sunscreen. Wear hats to protect your scalp and sunglasses that are rated to block UV light. Consider protective clothing labeled with an SPF.
4. This is the part that trips up most people: Reapply your sunscreen every two hours—more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating. It also tends to come off when you dry yourself with a towel. Reapply!
5. If possible, avoid the sun during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or seek shade.
6. If you’re at the beach, be extra careful. Both the water and the sand can reflect and intensify the sun’s rays.
7. Avoid tanning beds. In July 2009, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that tanning beds are more dangerous than previously thought. The agency then moved the devices into the highest cancer risk category: “carcinogenic to humans.”
8. Look out for sensitive skin. Chemicals like oxybenzone have been associated with skin reactions, while people with sensitive skin tend to better tolerate the physical sunscreens zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which usually can be found in sunscreens for babies and children.
While it’s true that vitamin D has many health benefits, most of us will get enough of it during those moments when we run to the store without sunscreen or fail to reapply it as we should. Even if you apply sunscreen perfectly and diligently, it only takes 15 minutes or so of sun exposure a few times a week to get the vitamin D you need. Instead, we should focus on protecting our skin from the long-term effects of premature aging and, more importantly, skin cancer.
In the short term, severe sunburn can cause high fever, headache, severe pain, dehydration, confusion, nausea and chills. It can also develop into a skin infection, indicated by swelling, pus or red streaks leading from a blister.
If you have questions about which sunscreen is right for you, healthy Vitamin D levels, skin cancer prevention, or more summer sunscreen tips, schedule an appointment with one of our physicians today. To find a physician near you, visit www.fishertitusmedicalcare.com.