Summer may be fading fast, but the sun isn't going anywhere. People heading to the beach this August should take precautions. With 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually, beach goers need to take sun protection more seriously than ever. More than 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with sun exposure.
"The intensity of sun exposure for beach goers is certainly elevated. Both water and sand can reflect up to 80 percent of the sun's rays, adding to your overall exposure," said Perry Robins, MD, President of The Skin Cancer Foundation. "However, beach and pool activities can be enjoyed safely as long as people take some extra precautions."
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the following beach sun safety tips:
Use Plenty of Sunscreen
For a day at the beach, chose a water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor). Following the suggested FDA guidelines, a "water-resistant" product must maintain its SPF after 40 minutes of water immersion, and a "very water-resistant" product, after 80 minutes. For effective ultraviolent A (UVA) radiation protection, select products that have some combination of the following ingredients: avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a. MexorylTM), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
To ensure that you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, apply 1 ounce (about a shot glass full) 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests putting sunscreen on before putting on your bathing suit. Not only will it provide extra protection to the skin underneath, but you are less likely to miss spots and end up with sunburn along the edges of your bathing suit. Don't forget to apply sunscreen to the tops of your feet.
Don't forget to bring sunscreen with you and reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming, toweling off, or sweating a great deal. A half day at the beach requires at least two applications of sunscreen.
Protect your head, face and eyes with a broad-brimmed hat (at least 3" all the way around) and sunglasses that filter out 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation. Cover up with long sleeves and pants when you aren't swimming. For women, brightly colored, long sarongs are another good option. Or opt for specially made sun protective clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 30 or higher. A product with a UPF of 30 will allow just 1/30th of the sun's UV radiation to penetrate the cloth. Surfers should wear a rash guard or surf shirt.
Seek the Shade and Plan Your Visit Accordingly
The sun is most intense between 10 AM and 4 PM, so why not try an early morning or late afternoon trip? You'll avoid the crowds (and traffic) and have the beach to yourself. And you'll get to enjoy the calm of daybreak or a stunning sunset. Early birds might consider heading to the beach by 7 or 8 AM and plan to leave by noon. Late risers might opt to arrive after 3 PM and can stay as long as they like.
We do not recommend spending an entire day at the beach, but if you do, be sure to take periodic "shade breaks" under a beach umbrella. However, not all umbrellas are created equal. The most effective ones provide a minimum UPF 30.
With a few simple precautions, you can enjoy a beach excursion without risking your skin's health.