Looks like it is summer fun time again. We have talked about staying safe in the sun before, but since this is so important, and because there are some new developments, I felt that I should revisit the issue of summer skin safety.
With summer comes sports events, pools, lakes, beaches and barbecues. For some of us, it may be just staying home and walking outside or digging up dirt in the yard. Sunburns can ruin our fun. Even if we don’t burn, we know that too much exposure can increase our risk of photo aging and skin cancers.
What to do? Seek the shade when you can. When at a pool or the beach, find the umbrella. If you are going out to the pool or beach, or even to garden, do this in the early morning (before 10:30) or later in the afternoon (after 3:30). You are less likely to get burned at these times. Try to wear protective clothing, sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB, and a hat that shades your face, ears, and back of neck. Of course when out, wear sunscreen.
Sunscreen should be applied before going out and reapplied every two hours and after swimming. The FDA has some new labeling regulations that should help us. All sunscreens do not meet these standards at this point, but most do. The new labeling should be easier to understand.
No sunscreen products should say “waterproof,” as that is not completely true. They can say water resistant and should have a maximum functional time to go with that (i.e. 40 min- 80 min). A product that says “Broad Spectrum” should protect against both UVA and UVB and function to guard against sunburn, photo-aging and skin cancer. These should be at least an SPF of 15 to allow a broad spectrum label,
but higher SPF will give more protection. A product can be labeled up to 50+. After this, it is hard to determine exactly how much more protection might be offered. I would look for 50+ if you tend to burn easily and will be out for a while. A product that is SPF 2-14 can only claim to decrease chance of sunburn but not protection against skin cancer or photo related aging.
Do not use a tanning bed to decrease your risk of damage when you get to the beach. That is nonsense. Get a spray tan if you want to look sun-kissed, and apply sunscreen.
Don’t turn a wonderful vacation into a disaster and a healthy wonderful summer into a future liability. Go out and have fun, but do this with some good common sense.