The risks of prolonged sun exposure are real—but they don’t have to keep you from having a fun, positive summer.
Posted in , Jul 7, 2017
The summer sun is a symbol of joy, freedom and fun. Literature overflows with poetic reflections on the pleasures of summer sunshine, like this gem from author Maud Hart Lovelace: “The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” Can’t you just picture that sun-dusted hill?
But back in the real world, the sun is also a risk factor for skin cancer, skin damage and heat stroke. Walking the positive path through this summer will mean finding the balance between protecting ourselves and luxuriating in the beauty of the warm season.
Here are my five musts for being sun-smart in summertime.
1. Sunscreen 101
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The sun protection factor (SPF) of your sunscreen should be at least 15. The higher your SPF number, the longer it will provide protection—but regardless, the CDC recommends reapplying sunscreen after sweating, swimming or several hours in the sun.
2. Use Other Sources of UV Protection
We are lucky to live in a time when many products, including clothing, hats, sunglasses and cosmetics, contain protection against UV rays. The more you are able to cover your body with protected fabrics, the more you can relax in the warmth of a summer day. Darker colors are better than lighter ones. And if you can’t go shopping before heading outside, even a simple cotton t-shirt may offer minimal sun protection, though it provides less than SPF 15.
3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
The more you’re outdoors in the sun, the more your body is dehydrating through sweat. Be mindful of your daily 8-by-8 hydration ratio—8 glasses of water, 8 ounces each.
4. Visit Your Dermatologist Annually
Regardless of a family history of skin cancer, every adult should visit a dermatologist for a full body exam each year. If any moles or freckles change noticeably in size, color or texture, make an appointment for a spot-check. Most skin cancers are highly treatable if caught early, so let prevention be your watchword.
5. Give Yourself a Sunny Moment
If you live in North America and are north of Atlanta, summertime is the only season when the sun is strong enough to stimulate vitamin D production in your body. Researchers believe just 10-20 minutes in the sun without sun protection (the darker your skin tone, the more minutes you will need) stimulates a day’s worth of this crucial, health-protecting vitamin. Avoid even these few unprotected minutes during the hottest part of the day—10 am to 4 pm—but embrace the opportunity to take a few deep breaths with the sun warm and bright on your skin. And know that when you adopt smart sun protection habits as part of your daily summer routine, you can embrace the summer Henry James described this way: “Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”