With summer here and kids out of school, everyone wants to be outside doing something. Whether you’re sunbathing, swimming, going to the beach, or barbequing, protection is essential. There is such a thing as too much sun and you can’t protect yourself or your loved ones enough. In the continental United States, exposure to UV rays during peak hours of the day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., is the most hazardous. Consequences of overexposure or unprotected exposure include sunburns, wrinkling, early aging of the skin, and skin cancer. There are several easy options to protect your skin from the sun, but the CDC recommends: sunscreen, clothing, hats, sunglasses, and shade.
Sunscreen is available in a variety of sun protective factors (SPFs). It is suggested to use SPF 15, with both UVA and UVB defense, or higher for the best protection. Sunscreen does wear off, requiring reapplication every two hours, after you swim, or after activities that make you sweat. It is also possible for sunscreen to expire. If there is not a date on the sunscreen, assume it has a shelf life of three years. Expired sunscreen does not protect you in the same way that new sunscreen will.
Uncovered skin is always at risk for the consequences of exposure. Wearing loose-fitting clothing, long-sleeved shirts and long pants, will offer the best protection from the sun’s UV rays. If this kind of clothing is not practical, at least commit to wearing comfortable summer clothes with other forms of protection, like sunscreen.
Wearing a hat with a wide brim will shade your face, ears, and back of your neck, protecting those areas from UV rays. If you prefer other hats, make sure the uncovered areas of your neck and head have been applied with sunscreen of at least SPF 15.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from the bright light of the sun and UV rays. Wearing sunglasses shields your eyes, reducing the risk of cataracts, and the sensitive skin around your eyes from the sun. Most sunglasses sold in the United States block both UVA and UVB rays, regardless of cost or brand.
Retreating to the shade during midday hours will not only give you a cool place to stand or sit, but you can reduce your exposure to the sun. An umbrella, tree, or other shelter like the shaded side of a building can give you relief from the heat and sun. However, you should still apply sunscreen and/or protective clothing even in the shade.
Getting that perfect summer tan may be your top priority for this summer, but do it safely. For more information about protection from the sun, refer to the CDC website or hotline.