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September 28, 2021

Protect yourself from the summer sun

Summer, with its bright days and warm weather that encourages outside play, is prime time for sun damage — but it’s not the only time you can be hurt by our solar system’s star.
You may be in the habit of packing sunscreen for a day at the beach. But the sun is up there 365 days a year, and you need protection much of that time to reduce your lifetime sun-exposure total, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation,
Everyday exposure counts — you do not have to be actively sunbathing to get a damaging dose of sun. So practice these Skin Cancer Foundation sun-protection basics year-round to give your skin the best chance of long-term health:

  • Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher whenever you spend time outdoors. This applies to all outdoor activities, including shopping, picnicking, walking, jogging, gardening or even waiting for a bus.
  • Choose a sunscreen with ingredients that block both UVB and UVA rays. Apply liberally and evenly to all exposed skin. The average adult in a bathing suit should use about 1 ounce of sunscreen per application. Not using enough will effectively reduce the product’s SPF and the protection you get.
  • Be sure to cover often-missed spots such as lips, ears, around the eyes, neck, scalp, hands and feet.
  • Reapply at least every two hours, more often if some of the sunscreen may have been removed while swimming, sweating or towel-drying.
  • Choose a product that suits your skin and your activity. Sunscreens are available in lotion, gel, spray, cream and stick forms. Some are labeled as water resistant, sweatproof, especially for sports, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, for sensitive skin or for children.
  • Cover up with clothes. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, remembering that tightly woven fabrics in dark or bright colors offer more protection. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. Water makes fabrics more translucent, so do not rely on a wet T-shirt for coverage.
  • A broad-brimmed hat goes a long way toward preventing skin cancer in often-exposed areas like the neck, ears, scalp and face. Opt for a 3- to 4-inch brim that extends all around the hat. Baseball caps and visors shade the face but leave the neck, lower face and ears exposed.
  • UV-blocking sunglasses with wraparound or large frames protect your eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes, common sites for skin cancer and sun-induced aging. Sunglasses also help reduce the risk of cataracts later in life.
  • Seek the shade. Be aware, however, that sunlight bouncing off reflective surfaces can reach you even beneath an umbrella or tree.
  • Never seek a tan. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is the skin’s response to the sun’s damaging rays.
  • Stay away from tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices. The UV radiation emitted by indoor tanning lamps is many times more intense than natural sunlight. Dangers include burns, premature skin aging and an increased risk of skin cancer.
  • Protect your children and teach them sun safety at an early age. Healthy habits are best learned young. Because skin damage occurs with each unprotected exposure and accumulates over the course of a lifetime, sun safety for children should be a priority.

More information on skin protection is available at www.skincancer.org.

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