Summertime is fun time to spend outdoors. But in sunny Florida, that means more exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Those UV rays can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes and even lead to skin cancer. Here are some tips to keep you sun safe all year long.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your exposure to damaging UV rays is to get in the shade. Seek shade under a tree, umbrella or another shelter in order to reduce your risk of sun damage. You’ll help your skin look younger longer and lower your risk of developing skin cancer.
Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you can to protect your skin from the sun’s harsh UV rays. There are clothing options available that contain a UV protectant built into the fabric. Also, remember that a wet t-shirt provides less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colored clothing protects better than light-colored clothing. Don’t forget to top it off with a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and back of the neck. If you choose a baseball cap instead, be sure to protect your ears and the back of your neck with sunscreen of at least 30 SPF.
Choose sunglasses that are labeled UV protectant to reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Most of the sunglasses sold in the U.S. block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses also protect the skin around your eyes from sun damage, and wrap-around sunglasses are an excellent option to block UV rays that might sneak in from the side.
Choosing the right sunscreen can be daunting, so we recommend following these four rules to make it easier:
- Broad-spectrum – Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from both ultraviolet A (also known as UVA) and ultraviolet B (also known as UVB) rays. Both of these rays can cause skin cancer.
- SPF 30 or higher – The sun protection factor (SPF) rating indicates how well a sunscreen protects you from the sun by blocking harmful UVB rays. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher to make sure you are protected.
- Key ingredients – Look for active ingredients like ecamsule, avobenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone or zinc oxide. Beware of products that include oxybenzone or octinoxate which are harmful to the environment. Some areas of Florida have banned the sale of sunscreen with oxybenzone and octinoxate because these chemicals can damage coral reefs.
- Avoid tanning oils – They generally do not provide enough protection against the harmful effects of the sun.
How to Apply Sunscreen & How Often
To get the maximum protection from your sunscreen, follow these recommendations:
- One ounce of sunscreen is considered the right amount. Cover all exposed areas of the body thoroughly. Don’t skimp. Many people don’t use enough sunscreen.
- Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going in the sun. Don’t forget the tips of the ears, feet, back of the legs and bald spot (if you have one). Reapply sunscreen every two hours and use a UV-protective lip balm to cover your lips.
- If you are exercising or are in the water, it’s a good idea to get a sunscreen that is resistant to water and sweat. The FDA defines water resistant to mean that the SPF level stays effective after 40 minutes in the water. Very water-resistant means it is effective after 80 minutes of swimming. These sunscreens are not waterproof, so reapply regularly.
Protecting your skin from the harmful rays of the sun can help you look younger and prevent skin cancer. Just to be on the safe side, be sure to get a skin cancer screening every year, so if you do develop skin cancer, it can be detected and treated early.
Schedule a skin cancer screening at your nearest Water’s Edge Dermatology office.