For many, summertime is beach time! Warm sand, warm water, cool(ish) sea breezes, waves. What’s not to love?
But enjoying the surf shouldn’t endanger your health. You might think that sun burn is only a short, albeit painful, dilemma, but it can also result in pre-mature aging or worse, skin cancer, aka melanoma. Melanoma is usually caused by over-exposure to harmful UVA and UVB radiation that the sun naturally emits, and nearly 100,000 adults are diagnosed with it in the U.S. each year.
Now, getting enough sunlight is essential for both a healthy body and mind, supporting the body’s Vitamin D production, which in turn helps us absorb calcium and phosphorous from food. However, getting too much sun can be a serious risk, and it’s a good idea to know the best ways to protect yourself so you can enjoy all that beach trip you’ve been dreaming of all year long. Here are few tips to get you started.
Stay Cool in the Shade
Staying in the shade is the easiest way to avoid overexposure. If you plan on spending a full day at the beach, or anywhere outdoors for that matter, invest in both a sun umbrella and a wide-brim hat that casts a shadow over your face, head, ears, and neck. Also, be sure to pick up a pair of wrap-around sunglasses that are designed to block UVA and UVB rays. Try also taking a break from the beach, especially during noon to four, when the sun is at its most intense.
Don’t Be Stingy with Sunscreen
You’d think this would be obvious, but it’s surprising how many people forget this essential step. That said, even the highest-rated sunscreens are not a 100% block. Typically, it’s best to buy sunscreens rated with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, but remember that the fairer your skin, the higher rating you’ll need. Also, it’s important to reapply often, since many sunscreen products wear off after a while, even if they’re water or sweat-proof. Lastly, there are some excellent products available that incorporate UV protection, including makeup, lipsticks or lip glosses, skin cream, etc. Be sure to read the labels closely, though to avoid intensifying the sun’s power (see below).
Ditch Personal Hygiene Products That Lack Protection
Just as there are some makeups, lotions, etc. that provide UV protection, there are a number of personal hygiene, skin care, medications, and other products that can actually magnify the effects of sunlight. According to some experts, these products act like “gunpowder” on your skin, intensifying the effects of UV light exposure. Look on product ingredient labels for things like alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids, as these will make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Additionally, ask a medical professional about any medications you are using about their potential to increase your photosensitivity.
Schedule an appointment with our doctors to get the best strategies for maximizing your fun and minimizing your risk.