Summer's here, and that means outdoor sports and social events, and, if you're not careful, sun damage. The sun's ultraviolet radiation (UVR) accelerates skin aging and increases the risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and other eye diseases. But some simple strategies can help you maximize summer fun without sacrificing your health.
For example, when you're running, hiking or biking, use a sport (usually stick) sunscreen formula on your face - it won't run into your eyes when you heat up. Reapply often if you sweat heavily.
Beachgoers and water enthusiasts have special concerns, since both water and sand reflect up to 80 percent of the sun's rays, adding to your overall exposure. If you're swimming, apply a full ounce (two tablespoons) of water-resistant sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply immediately after swimming. Sailors face this added, reflected exposure not only from the water, but also from a sailboat's white sails. In addition to using sunscreen, protect your eyes with wraparound, UV-blocking sunglasses. A broad-brimmed hat and bright- or dark-colored long sleeves and pants will also shield your skin.
For surfers, neoprene (synthetic rubber) and UV-protective Lycra wetsuits offer sun protection in cold or warm water. A nylon or neoprene surfing cap that covers the scalp and ears is also a good idea. You may prefer an alcohol-based gel or spray sunscreen for exposed trouble spots like the top of the head and scalp.
If you're just lounging in the sand, stay under sun umbrellas or portable shade structures. Some come with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) label. UPF numbers indicate how much of the sun's radiation the fabric will absorb; a UPF of 30 means just 1/30th of the sun's rays penetrate the fabric. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends UPFs of 30 or higher.
Group events - from tennis and golf to barbecues - should be scheduled when the sun is weakest: before 10AM or after 4PM. Evening activities allow you to avoid the midday heat, and the later sunsets provide light long into the evening hours.
Finally, if a family vacation involves a long car trip, consider installing UV film on your car windows to block harmful UVA rays and reduce glare.
Please take these tips to heart, and have a happy and healthy summer!
Perry Robins, MD, President