Sun Safety: Protect Your Skin this Summer
By Dr. Michele L. Ralofsky
Your skin is your body’s largest organ and plays an important role in your overall health. Yet, when those long-awaited summer months hit, pools open and beach vacations are on the horizon, it can be easy to forget how important it is that we protect this vital part of our bodies.
Getting outside and being active is a great way to get vitamin D after a long winter, and it’s also a great way to relieve stress – all things that benefit your health.
Too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can damage your skin cells and put you at risk for skin cancer. This is also true if you like to use tanning beds or sun lamps.
There are many ways you can protect yourself from sun damage this summer. From hats and umbrellas to sunscreen and the clothing you wear, you can safely enjoy all your favorite summer activities while also keeping your skin safe from the sun.
The clothes you wear can offer great protection for your skin, especially when wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants or a maxi dress or skirt. Of course, summer temperatures might make some of those wardrobe choices impractical.
If you’re at the pool or beach, be sure to have a cover up with you and maybe even a t-shirt or rash guard you can wear to be sun safe and comfortable at the same time. Hats and sunglasses are also helpful in protecting your face and eyes from the sun.
It is best to wear hats with a full brim to fully cover your face, ears and neck. If a baseball cap is more your style, that will work too, but make sure you protect your ears and neck with sunscreen or additional clothing. Wearing sunglasses and protecting your eyes can also reduce the risk of future cataracts. Just make sure they will protect you from UVA and UVB rays.
Whether you’re having a picnic under a shady tree or on the beach with your umbrella, shade is another tool that can keep your skin safe while outdoors. If you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period, make sure you have covered area to give your skin a break from sun exposure. Applying sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays should also be part of your daily routine and done year-round.
Make sure you’re using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher. SPF stands for sun protection factor and indicates the level of protection the sunscreen offers, which increases as the number rises.
Reapplication of your sunscreen is also key to keeping your skin safe in the sun. Always reapply your sunscreen if you’ve been outside for more than one hour or if you’ve been in water or are sweating.
National Sunscreen Day
May 27 is National Sunscreen Day – a day that was established by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to encourage sun safety awareness and reduce the rising rates of skin cancer from overexposure to UV rays. Also known as “Don’t Fry Day,” this day serves as a reminder that everyday should be a sunscreen day.
It’s important to remember that each of these skin protection options work best when you use them together. While they all offer their own individual benefits, they are far more powerful in protecting your skin from damage when they are used collectively.
Why does protecting your skin matter so much? Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. It’s also one that can be prevented with appropriate protections from overexposure to UV light. Some might be more at risk for skin cancer than others, but it can impact anyone.
Skin Cancer Factors
Some skin cancer risk factors include skin that burns or freckles easily, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, certain types of large moles, a family or personal history of skin cancer or old age. If you think you might be at higher risk for skin cancer or see any unusual changes to moles or your skin, it’s important to contact your provider. Summer is a great time to enjoy all nature has to offer, just make sure you’re being sun safe and protecting your skin from harmful rays.
*Michele L Ralofsky, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician at Mercy Health – Vermillion Primary Care. She graduated from Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at Good Samaritan Hospital. She has a special interest in skin health.