Wednesday, March 26

Ten steps to a sun safe spring break

by Katherine Matutes, Ph.D.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, receiving more than 5 sunburns in your lifetime doubles your chances of developing melanoma skin cancer, the most deadly form of skin cancer.  

More troubling, 42% of the population gets sunburned once a year, making it is easy to understand why skin cancer diagnoses outnumber all other types of cancers...combined.  

Below are a few steps that you can take to develop a sun-safe spring break.

Wear sunscreen every day: Treat sunscreen application like your brushing your teeth - it’s just something you do before you leave the house, everyday. This ensures that the skin is protected from UV rays that filter through windows and sun exposure during short outings. It's not always enough to protect just for a day at the pool.

Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going outside: Use sunscreen that has at least 15 SPF. 

Re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours: This practice is especially important after profuse sweating or swimming.

Wear Clothing with an SPF rating: Clothing can help to cover and shade highly exposed areas, like the back of the neck, nose, ears and cheeks, and consider using hats or scarves when possible.

Know your sunscreen. As SPF ratings increase, there is only a minor increase in protection. Sunscreen with 15 SPF will block 93 percent of UVB rays while a 30 SPF sunscreen will block 97 percent. Notice that the percentage of blockage protection does NOT double even though the SPF rating doubles. Additionally, there are 2 types of sun rays- UVA and UVB, and both types can cause skin damage. SPF rankings only indicate the percentage of UVB rays blocked. Protecting against UVA rays requires specific ingredients, making it important to read the label and look for: avobenzone, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, or zinc oxide.

Minimize sun exposure: Be aware of the peak sun hours of the day from 10am-4pm, and limit your time outdoors in this window of time.

Understand if your medications increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight: Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about this possible side effect of your prescriptions.

Hydrate: Dehydrations can quickly turn into heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Get plenty of water and maybe even a sports drink if you will be out exercising in the heat. Get to a cool location if you experience the signs of heat exhaustion including nausea, dizziness, a severe headache, extreme fatigue, pale skin and profuse sweating.

Protect your eyes: UVA and UVB rays can lead to eye damage, including the potential formation of cataracts or increased risk of macular degeneration.  Those with fair skin and light eyes are most likely to suffer more significant damage. Always wear sunglasses that bock 100% of UV rays, and go for the lenses that wrap around and block out reflective light as well.

Pace yourself: If you overdo the sun one day, choose to spend the next day indoors, treating your skin with aloe vera, drinking water and perhaps napping to allow you body the maximum time recover.

More About Katherine Matutes, PhD

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