Staying Safe in the Summer Sun

crop portrait1By Erin Bruton

With summer just around the bend, we are all spending more time outside enjoying the beautiful weather and soaking up the sun’s rays. Being in the sun is beneficial to our bodies in many ways, such as boosting our mood and warding off depression, assisting in vitamin D synthesis, and increasing melatonin production. However, failure to take the proper safety precautions when spending time in the sun can wreak havoc on our skin. Skin Cancer is the most common of all cancers in the United States affecting 1 in 5 Americans and is directly linked to sun exposure.  Melanoma, which occurs among all races and at any age, is the most serious form of skin cancer and causes one death per hour in the United States alone. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood doubles a person’s risk of melanoma, and tanning bed use dramatically increases the risk. And if that’s not enough to convince you to protect your skin, how about the fact that daily, incidental sun exposure is the number one cause of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin adding unnecessary aging to our complexions? Here are some simple steps that you can follow this season to enjoy the benefits of the sun in a smart and healthy way:

Choose the right sunscreen: Most over-the-counter sunscreens contain high levels of chemical sunscreen ingredients, such as oxybenzone and avobenzone. These chemicals can be harmful to your health and frequently cause allergic reactions. Aerosolized spray-on sunscreens contain harmful chemical ingredients that are easily inhaled into the lungs. Instead, choose a sunscreen lotion with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the main active ingredient. These are naturally occurring minerals that lay atop the surface of the skin and deflect harmful sun rays. Such sunscreens are usually advertised as “appropriate for sensitive skin,” as they are much less irritating than chemical sunscreens. I recommend Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 60+, Ology Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, or CeraVe Suncare Sunscreen Body SPF50. These products are safe and appropriate for the entire family.   However, no sunscreen is appropriate for infants under the age of six months, therefore they should be kept in the shade at all times.

Apply your sunscreen properly and reapply frequently: Unfortunately most people do not apply enough sunscreen to receive the full SPF benefits listed on the bottle. For an average adult body, a golf ball size dollop is recommended for adequate full-body protection. Also, remember that when you are swimming or sweating, the same amount of sunscreen 15SunProtectionshould be reapplied every two hours at a minimum.

Wear sunscreen on a daily basis: Sunscreen should be a part of everyone’s daily skincare routine. Even on days that we are not necessarily spending a lot of time outdoors, we are still susceptible to what is known as “incidental sun exposure.” This occurs as we are driving around town and walking in and out of buildings. We are even exposed to UVA damage while indoors, as these rays are emitted by florescent light bulbs. To protect your face year-round, choose daily moisturizing products with effective sunscreen ingredients such as Eucerin Everyday Protection Face Lotion SPF 30 or Olay Complete Defense Daily UV Moisturizer Sensitive Skin SPF 30. To protect skin not covered by clothing (such as your neck, chest, forearms, legs, and feet), choose a protective body product such as Eucerin Daily Protection SPF 15 Moisturizing Body Lotion.

Wear protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses: Because no sunscreen has the ability to protect your skin completely, sun-protective clothing and hats are a great way to give your skin the extra protection it needs. When shopping for protective clothing look for labeling that indicates a UPF50+ rating. These modern, high tech fabrics are light-weight and cool, and they are treated with zinc oxide to add extra sun protection.  UPF 50+ clothing is becoming very popular and can be easily found at your local sporting goods store. Protect your vision as well as the delicate skin around your eyes with a great pair of sunglasses. Look for glasses that are labeled to protect from both UVA and UVB rays.

Stay indoors during peak sun hours:  The sun is at its strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. standard time or 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight savings time. When possible, plan your outdoor activities early in the morning or later in the afternoon to minimize skin damage. When you must be out during peak sun hours, seek shade whenever possible.

Taking the above precautions will help to insure a healthier lifestyle for you and your family! Be sure to share your sun safety knowledge with friends, family, teachers, and coworkers to help reduce skin cancer in your community.

 

Erin Bruton works as an aesthetician in Nashville, TN and has gained over ten years experience in clinical dermatology. She focuses her practice on the prevention and correction of sun damage and photo aging.