Summer is here and the beaches will soon be swarming with people from all walks of life donning swimsuits and sunglasses and eager to be the first to step into the cool, blue ocean waters. Others will be visiting their local park and toting picnic baskets filled with homemade goodies. Whether your summertime activities include the beach, a park or simply your own back yard, you should take precautions to keep yourself safe and protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
There seems to be some debate as to who actually said that one can never be “too thin, too tan, or too rich,” but such advice may need a little reconsideration nowadays. As well as the potentially fatal dangers of anorexia and bulimia, we’re all fully aware of the increase in the diagnosis of skin cancer over the last twenty years. However, it’s difficult to stop from rushing for the parks and pools when the sun shines.
We all believe that a tan makes us look better, and in the majority of cases it does – it gives us a healthy glow and helps to rid of us of our office pallor that’s developed over the winter days at our desks. However, while you may think that your post-holiday glow gives you a super-healthy appearance, others may think you look more like an old leather handbag. It’s a wise woman who remembers that when it comes to tanning, “little and often” is always the best way to go.
If you’ve got a specific window of opportunity in which to achieve a tan, and a guaranteed supply of sun – such as a holiday in Hawaii – then you can schedule your tanning accordingly. Start off being in the sun for just a little while, and always wear sunscreen. Make sure you know what type of sunscreen you’re wearing and how effective it’s going to be. The SPF (sun protection factor) is a guide to how long you can stay in the sun before burning; the higher the SPF, the longer you can stay out. So, for example, if without any sunscreen you can stay 10 minutes in the sun before burning, using sunscreen with a SPF of 10 will give you protection for one hour and 40 minutes (SPF 10 x 10 minutes = 100 minutes).
When applying sunscreen, do so liberally, and re-apply after swimming and excessive sweating (after a game of volleyball, for instance, or a hike in the hills). As a precautionary measure, apply sunscreen at least every two hours and at least 20 minutes before going into the sun; this will give your skin time to absorb the sunscreen so it is effective as soon as you get outside. Most dermatologists advise wearing sunscreen with a SPF rating of 15 or higher; you will still tan wearing sunscreen with a SPF of 30, so don’t be tempted to cut corners.
As well as the SPF rating on a sunscreen, make sure any sunscreen you use contains protection against UV (ultraviolet) light rays. UVB rays are the tanning rays that are produced when the earth rotates closest to the sun. UVA rays are “invisible” rays that are the same strength all year round. These UVA rays can be just as damaging to the skin (if not more so) than UVB rays, which is why dermatologists recommend wearing a facial sunscreen every day of the year.
On the first few days of your holiday you may be tempted to stay out in the sun for longer than you planned, but try to avoid it. Too much sun too quickly could result in your skin blistering and peeling. As well as being unattractive, this could result in permanent damage to your skin. This doesn’t mean that you have to return to your hotel room once your time’s up; simply move out of the sun or cover up. Keep a loose tunic and a pair of light cotton pants or a sarong on hand so that once you’ve reached your maximum quota of sun for the day, you can slip these on. It’s also a good idea to have a wide-brimmed hat with you so you can protect your face and eyes from the sun. Also, avoid sunbathing between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is at its hottest, especially during the first few days of your holiday.
Some sun-lovers get caught between a rock and a hard place when tanning is concerned: they don’t want to bare their bodies to the sun until they’ve achieved a little color. Obviously, in order to achieve a suntan you need be in the sun – or rather you did before the advent of tinted sunscreens and tanning beds. A tinted sunscreen can add color to your face and body while at the same time offer protection against the sun, whereas a series of tanning sessions at your local solarium will help give your body enough of a tan so you don’t feel too conspicuous on the beach during the first few days of your holiday.
When in the sun, remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. Always apply moisturizing lotion after you’ve spent time in the sun; apply it all over your body just after you’ve showered in order to help your skin retain as much moisture as possible. (Store your lotion in the refrigerator and apply it chilled for a truly soothing after-sun treat).
It’s hard to resist the allure of the sun, and given all of its positive connotations it’s also hard to see it as something dangerous, but it can be; a suntan is, after all, a sign of sun-damaged skin. So be careful when out in the sun. Take the necessary precautions and enjoy the summer with the knowledge that a sun-kissed glow is a healthier and more attractive look than one that tells the world you’re a prematurely aged sun slave.
There are a number of medical conditions that can occur from too much sun exposure. These conditions can range from something as mild as a minor sunburn to a fatal case of skin cancer. Heat exhaustion, heat stroke and severe sunburns can be potentially deadly, as well. If you are preparing to spend a lot of time in the sun this summer, plan ahead and be confident that you have made all the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your family during the hottest, yet most active, months of the year. Here are a few tips to help you take all the important safety measures without sacrificing your summertime enjoyment.
• Know when to go inside – Avoid staying outdoors for long periods of time, especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
• Be liberal with the sunscreen – Apply sunscreen liberally and often, even if it claims to last all day, especially when you have be swimming, sweating or using a towel to dry off. It should be reapplied every two to four hours.
• Shop around for the right sunscreen – Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater. Don’t let those overcast days fool you. 80% of the sun’s UV rays can pass right through the clouds. Use sunscreen on these days as well.
• Be patient – Wait at least a half hour after applying sunscreen to go outside. It takes approximately that long to kick in and be effective.
• Cover your head – Wear a hat with a wide brim when going outside. Find one that covers or shades your ears, neck and face.
• Cover your eyes – Wear sunglasses with a strong UV protection. Those with a 99 – 100 percent absorption would be the best option.
• Be aware of what you wear – When you can, wear clothes to cover as much of your skin as possible. Dark colors and tightly woven fabric provide the best protection. Light colored clothing and loosely woven fabric allows more UV rays to reach your skin.
• Check your makeup – If you plan on wearing cosmetics in the sun, wear the kind with sunscreen and a SPF of at least 15, but be careful which cosmetics you choose as some cosmetics actually contain certain substances that absorbs more of the sun’s harmful radiation, making you more susceptible to sunburn. Read labels thoroughly and be sure you are choosing a makeup product with sunscreen. Also, always wear a lip protector when going outside.
• Check with your doctor or pharmacist – Certain medications can actually cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun. Ask your physician or pharmacist if your medications have this affect.
• Watch your time spent in tanning beds – Always remember: everything in moderation is OK.
• Drink plenty of water – You can easily become dehydrated in the hot sun, even when you don’t realize it. Keeping lots of water on hand and drinking it often will keep you hydrated and, therefore, will help you avoid heat related illnesses.
• Slow down – Don’t try to do too much strenuous activity and don’t try to cram too much into a short period of time. Slow down and pace yourself. You don’t need to risk your health for a little summertime merriment.
• Monitor your children – Children are more susceptible to the damaging rays of the sun. Keep them well protected with plenty of sunscreen and limit their outdoor playtime.
• Keep the baby covered – Babies under one year of age should be kept out of the sun as much as possible. However, when a baby does need to be outdoors, keep his/her head covered with a hat. When applying sunscreen, use only a sunscreen with an SPF of 4 or less on babies younger than six months old.
• Don’t save sunscreen for the beach or pool – A good SPF 15 or higher sunscreen should be applied whenever you spend time outdoors. The sun isn’t only at the beach. Its harmful UV rays can find you anywhere. You should also keep a hat and sunglasses nearby.
• Visit your dermatologist – Annual visits to a dermatologist will greatly reduce your risk of developing a terminal form of skin cancer. Your doctor can locate cancerous and pre-cancerous moles or growths on your skin that are still small and isolated. Many times the affected area can be removed, if found early, in order to be kept from spreading. Your dermatologist can also give you more sun safety tips.
• Talk to your children – Warn your children about the dangers of excessive sun exposure. If a child has just one or two blistering sunburns before the age of 18, it can significantly increase the risk of developing skin cancer. When possible, encourage your children to play in the shade, to take frequent breaks from their outdoor active play and to drink plenty of water or other beverages full of electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte. And again, don’t be shy with the sunscreen. Elderly individuals are equally vulnerable to the sun’s UV rays and should take the same precautions as children.
• Take care of your sunburn – If you do get a sunburn, a cool bath, aloe vera and a light moisturizer or powder can help ease the discomfort. If you begin to blister or you feel nauseous or faint, see your doctor immediately. Stay out of the sun until your sunburn is completely gone.
You don’t have to give up your summertime activities and hide from the sun to avoid the potential dangers. If you take the proper precautions and make the right decisions you will be able to take pleasure in the enjoyable events of the summer without the worries or concerns of the sun’s negative affects on you health.
Finally, it is recommended that you go outside for a little while each day. The fresh air is good for you and the occasional change in atmosphere will keep your daily tasks from becoming mundane. Go ahead and visit the beach or plan a day trip to the lake or a nearby park. Whatever outdoor activities you are planning for the summer months, whether it is a trip to the zoo or just spending time in your own backyard, you won’t have to worry about the sun if you follow these simple guidelines. Your time in the sun should be fun, relaxing and carefree. Take time to prepare your outing with the sun in mind. If you plan your course of action to protect yourself from the sun, you are sure to have a fun-filled and safe summer.