Summer brings warmth and relaxation. However, long light-filled days at the beach often also mean overexposure to the sun's dangerous ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can wreak havoc on your skin, eyes, and immune system. Luckily, you can enjoy yourself without compromising your health - or style - by following our beach sun safety tips.
When choosing outfits, consider color and cloth: Dark or bright colors absorb more UV than paler shades, and denser fabrics, like denim or canvas, are more protective than sheer or loosely woven cloth. Loose-fitting clothes are preferable to tighter garments, which can stretch and expose skin to the sun.
Some manufacturers provide extra-protective clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) labels, which indicate exactly how protective the clothes are: A shirt with a UPF of 45 lets in just 1/45th of the sun's UV.
Try: Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, sarongs.
Avoid: Bleached cottons, silks, polo shirts.
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas, which comprise over 90 percent of skin cancers, most often appear on the head and neck. Protect yourself with a hat, ideally one with a brim extending at least three inches all the way around to shade not just the face and scalp but the neck, shoulders, and upper back.
Try: Bucket, outback, and tightly woven straw hats.
Avoid: Baseball caps and sun visors (though they are better than nothing).
Certain surfaces reflect UV radiation, so that it hits the skin and eyes twice, adding to your exposure. Sand reflects 15 percent of UV light; water, up to 10 percent; and sea foam, about 25 percent, according to the World Health Organization. Sunglasses with polarized lenses reduce glare, but UV protection is most important in sunglass selection: Choose a pair that filters out 99-100 percent.
Many sunglasses have tinted lenses, and the effects aren't just cosmetic: Brown lenses create greater color contrast, improving visibility on solid-color surfaces like sand and grass. Yellow lenses are good for both contrast and depth perception.
Try: Oversized frames, and wraparound shades, which don't let UV in at the temples.
Avoid: Sunglasses that don't block 99 percent or more of UV radiation; any pair that slips down the nose, allowing UV to reach your eyes.
Sunscreen is only effective if you use enough. Apply a full ounce (two tablespoons) to the body, including a nickel-sized amount to the face, 30 minutes before heading outdoors. Spray sunscreens are also an easy-to-use option. Reapply every two hours outside, and immediately after swimming, towel-drying, or heavy sweating.
Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
Water-resistant sunscreens are a boon to bathers, but their optimum protection lasts just 40 minutes ("very water-resistant" sunscreens last 80), and they should be reapplied immediately after getting out of the water. If you exercise, sport sunscreens, formulated not to run when you sweat, are a good option.
Finally, be really stylish by not following the crowd. Head to the beach before 10 AM or after 4 PM, when the sun is weaker, to minimize exposure and avoid the hordes.
For more information about sun protection strategies, read our Prevention Guidelines.
Published on July 31, 2014, Updated on May 14, 2016