The summer is not the only time you are at risk for damage from the sun. Find out how to protect yourself no matter what the season.
You are probably in the habit of packing sunscreen for a day at the beach or pool. But the sun is up there 365 days a year, and you need protection much of that time to reduce your lifetime sun-exposure total. Everyday exposure counts; you do not have to be actively sunbathing to get a damaging dose of the sun. Practice these sun-protection basics all year round to give your skin the best chance of long-term health:
Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher whenever you spend time outdoors.
- This applies to all outdoor activities: athletics, shopping, picnicking, walking or jogging, gardening, even waiting for a bus.
- 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.
- Apply liberally and evenly to all exposed skin. The average adult in a bathing suit should use approximately one ounce of sunscreen per application. Not using enough will effectively reduce the product's SPF and the protection you get.
- Be sure to cover often-missed spots: lips, ears, around eyes, neck, scalp if hair is thinning, hands, and feet.
- Reapply at least every 2 hours, more often if some of the product may have been removed while swimming, sweating, or towel-drying.
- Choose a product that suits your skin and your activity. Sunscreens are available in lotion, gel, spray, cream, and stick forms. Some are labeled as water resistant, sweatproof, or especially for sports; as fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, or especially for sensitive skin or children.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Tightly woven fabrics and dark colors, such as deep blue and black, or bright colors, such as orange and red, offer more protection. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through too. Water makes fabrics more translucent, so do not rely on a wet T-shirt.
- A broad-brimmed hat goes a long way toward preventing skin cancer in often-exposed areas like the neck, ears, scalp, and face. Opt for a 3-4 inch brim that extends all around the hat. Baseball caps and visors shade the face but leave neck, lower face, and ears exposed.
- UV-blocking sunglasses with wraparound or large frames protect your eyelids and the sensitive skin around your eyes, common sites for skin cancer and sun-induced aging. Sunglasses also help reduce the risk of cataracts later in life.
Seek the shade.
- Be aware, however, that sunlight bouncing off reflective surfaces can reach you even beneath an umbrella or a tree.
Never seek a tan.
- There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan is the skin's response to the sun's damaging rays.
Stay away from tanning parlors and artificial tanning devices.
- The UV radiation emitted by indoor tanning lamps is many times more intense than natural sunlight. Dangers include burns, premature aging of the skin, and the increased risk of skin cancer.
Protect your children and teach them sun safety at an early age.
- Healthy habits are best learned young. Because skin damage occurs with each unprotected exposure and accumulates over the course of a lifetime, sun safety for children should be a priority.