Beat the Sun This Summer Get tips on avoiding skin problems while enjoying your fun in the sun. WebMD Feature By Kayla Gomez Reviewed by Nicole Schillace, MD What is the largest organ in your body? Is it your lungs? Your liver? No, it’s your skin. Your skin takes up almost 20 square feet and is roughly 16% of your body weight. The skin is not often thought of as an organ and is often misused and mistreated as a result. It is important to realize that the skin performs many vital functions to our body such as regulating temperature, warding off unwanted invaders, eliminating toxic waste through sweat, and much more. According to Dr Lupercio, “Good skin care, especially in the summer, is vital for healthy looking skin down the road.” The choices we make when taking care of our skin now will show up on our bodies forever.
Wear Sunscreen The most important thing you can do for your skin is to wear sunscreen. Most people think of sunscreen as something to be worn only at the beach or pool, but sun damage can occur there and at many places in between such as walking to the car or watching a soccer game. Dr Hersthal, a dermatologist from Boca Raton, Fl, says that you need to wear “a sun block that blocks out both UVA and UVB” sun rays. This sun block should even be worn underneath your makeup to prevent unknown damage occurring when outside, even for brief intervals. There are many different options for sunscreen out there. Most facial moisturizers have sunscreen in them now for those who don’t want to take the extra application step of putting on sunscreen. There are also aerosol cans that make it easy to spray sunscreen on without having to get your hands messy and sunscreen sticks are good for easy application around the eyes. SPF of 30 or greater with a broad spectrum agent is what is recommended to block out those harmful UVA and UVB rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, but one of a stronger SPF may be recommended for very sensitive areas like scars and on your face. A little known fact about sunscreen is that it is not effective immediately. It takes around 20 minutes for it to be at its full sun blocking potential. So lathering up prior to going to the beach or going outdoors is recommended. Once there, it is recommended that you should reapply at least every two hours and potentially more often if you are in the water or sweating a lot.
Protect Your Face One of the best ways to protect your face from the sun is to keep it away from the sun. Of course you can’t be expected to stay inside all summer, so how should you do this? By wearing a wide-brimmed hat you are effectively shading your face from the sun’s harmful rays. This doesn’t mean skip on the aforementioned sunscreen because you can still catch some sun off the glares of shinny surfaces, water at the beach, and even sand. While you’re focusing on protecting your skin it’s always good to protect your eyes too. Wearing sunglasses decreases the amount of harmful rays that enter your retina and will keep your eyesight good for years to come.
Avoid Peak Hours There are peak hours of the day when the sun shines its brightest and its rays are the most harmful. From 10am to 4pm you should avoid having too much direct sunlight. If you are planning a picnic, think about planning it as an early dinner around 5:00 instead of right at noon when it’s bound to be scorching anyways. A good way to judge is that if your shadow is shorter than you are, it is a good idea to seek shade.
Wear Protective Clothing There are a lot of companies out there selling fashionable UVA and UVB proof clothing now. They have light weight options to accommodate for warm weather and are a great alternative to sunscreen if you will only be out for a bit and don’t want to be sticky after. Coolibar, a company from Australia has been promoting safe sun practices for over a decade. They recognize that normal summer attire does not provide any protection from the sun and want to sell the rest of the world on protecting their skin too. Their high-tech fabric provides at least SPF 50 and 98% UV protection, a far better option than layering on sunscreen applications.
Check Yourself Regularly The first person to notice a change in your body should be you. If you see a mole or a freckle that wasn’t there before, it’s not something to just brush aside. Making sure to check yourself regularly for new bodily developments is a key component to skin safety. Many skin cancers can be treated safely and efficiently, but only when caught in adequate time. You should consult your doctor or dermatologist immediately if you notice any new or changing moles or freckles on your body.