Summer is officially here and with the 4th of July around the corner we’d like offer some words of advice for when you are out in the sun enjoying your summer. Even though we are still at risk of dangerous UV exposure in the winter, during the summer months we tend to be at higher risk due to longer days, increased outdoor activities, and trips to the beach.
It is important to monitor the UV index and prepare accordingly to protect your skin from the dangerous effects of these potentially cancer-causing rays. The Global Solar UV Index measures the potential for exposure to harmful solar UV rays and ranges from 1–11+. Levels at 11+ are the most dangerous and when you are most likely to experience damaging effects of exposure to these harmful rays. Ways to protect yourself based on the UV index number are described in the Environmental Protection Agency chart below:
There are many ways to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. One way is to avoid the sun between the hours of 10am and 4pm. These are generally when the UV index is highest, and you are most likely to have increased exposure to UV rays. The “Shadow Rule” is an easy tool to help assess if your risk to UV exposure is higher. If your shadow is taller than you, the UV exposure is likely lower. If your shadow is shorter than you, then you are at increased risk for exposure and should use extra precautions when you are outdoors.
Another way to protect your skin when outdoors during the summer is the use of protective clothing. This can include wide-brimmed hats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and lightweight long sleeves shirts and long pants. These will protect the areas that are most vulnerable to sun exposure and reduce the risks of skin cancer. The scalp, face, ears, and arms are generally the most exposed areas and many skin cancers are found in these areas. Protecting these vulnerable areas can decrease your risk of developing skin cancer.
Sunscreen is crucial to protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. By using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher you are decreasing your risk significantly from the lasting damage done by UV rays. The higher the SPF does not mean the longer you can go between applications, it determines the number of harmful UV rays that it allows through. A sunscreen with SPF 30, when used properly, will block roughly 97% of harmful rays. Higher SPFs will block slightly more, but it is not considered necessary and can lead to a feeling of better protection which can mean you won’t be as vigilant about reapplying.
There are two main types of sunscreen available, physical blockers and chemical sunscreens. Physical blockers contain ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Physical sunscreen work by reflecting the harmful UV rays. Chemical sunscreens contain ingredients like avobenzone and benzophenone. These types of sunscreens work by absorbing the harmful rays. Physical blockers are good for people who have allergies to the ingredients in chemical sunscreens or who have sensitive skin. It is important to note that when using sunscreens, it is important to apply it at least 15 minutes prior to exposure and repeat applications often for continuous protection. This is especially true if you are going to be in the water or sweating a lot. We also recommend the use of water resistant sunscreen if you are going to be taking part in water activities or sweating.
Here’s some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology on choosing a sunscreen:
Our office offers multiple sunscreens to help you protect your skin this summer. We have both physical blockers and chemical sunscreens available. We carry sunscreens from SolBar and EltaMD for your convenience. Our staff is happy to answer any questions you have about the sunscreens we carry. Stop by today or pick some up when you are in the office for your annual skin exam!
Thank you so much for letting us help you take care of your gorgeous, protected skin! Have a safe and fun summer!
For more information and resources check out the EPA’s website on Sun Safety.