Though summer is a great opportunity to unwind and spend some time with family on the beach, it is important to remember that more time outdoors means more sun exposure. Sunlight is a great source of vitamin D, but ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can also damage your skin, causing premature aging, wrinkles, and an increased risk of skin cancer. UV rays can even be a concern even on cloudy days, as up to 80% of UV rays can pass through clouds. Here are some tips for having a fun, relaxing summer without the sunburn.
Monitor UV levels. It’s a good idea to check how high UV levels are in your area for a better idea of how to prepare and what activities to plan for a given day. You can find the UV index for your local area in the weather forecast or on epa.gov.
Use sunscreen. Sunscreen is one of the best ways of reducing UV exposure. You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Broad spectrum means it protects against the major types of UV rays that cause damage (UVA and UVB). Don’t forget to check the expiration date on your sunscreen, and consider using a water-resistant sunscreen if you will be in the water. Since sunscreen can wear off, it’s important to reapply throughout the day, especially if you swim or exercise.
Cover up. Wearing clothing such as long-sleeved shirts or long pants will help protect against UV exposure. Tightly woven fabrics offer better protection against UV exposure.
Accessorize with sunglasses and a hat. A wide-brimmed hat can help protect the sensitive parts of your face, neck, and ears from too much sun exposure. UV rays can also damage your eyes, increasing your risk of developing cataracts. Opt for UV-absorbent sunglasses to protect your eyes; most sunglasses sold in the U.S. offer broad-range protection against UV rays.
Limit exposure, and stay hydrated! Generally, UV rays are the strongest from 10am to 4pm. If you have to be out in the sun during this time, don’t forget to take breaks in the shade. It’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day, so you lessen the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Check out our tips for healthy summer drinks. Keep drinking, even when you’re not thirsty.
Now that you’re all summer ready, get out there and have some fun!
Written by Erica Wan
Erica is currently a health education intern at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She is studying Biology, and Culture, Health & Science at Smith College, with an interest in immunology and medicine.