7 Simple Ways to Enjoy the Sun Without Getting Burned
That bottle of sunscreen in your beach bag is your best protection against sunburn and skin damage from spending time outside. But there are other essential strategies that will get you fully ready for the rays. Read on before you head outside.
- Respect the power of UV. About 5 percent of sunlight is ultraviolet (UV). It’s those UV rays that damage our skin. On unprotected skin, UV rays force gene mutations in skin cells and are the leading cause of skin cancer. If you have fair skin, several moles, or a family history of skin cancer, your risk of getting skin cancer is higher. Anyone can develop skin cancer, and we’re all susceptible to the sun’s aging effects.
- Check the time. No surprise: The sun’s damaging rays are at their worst during the hottest, brightest part of the day. If you can, try to plan your outdoor activities before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. But, really, anytime you see the sun means it’s hitting your skin — so be mindful about your sun protection.
- Read SPF labels. Check the ingredients list for some combination of avobenzone, ecamsule, oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. These block the type of UV rays, UVA, that play the biggest role in skin aging and wrinkling. Also, look for sunscreen that reads “broad spectrum,” which means it protects from both UVA and UVB rays (UVB rays burn and damage the skin’s top layers).
- Spend more time applying SPF. Don’t get too caught up in the SPF number on your bottle of sunscreen. What really matters is how you apply it. If you’re wearing shorts or a swimsuit, you’ll need a full ounce (that’s about two tablespoons or the size of a shot glass). Your skin needs time to fully absorb the SPF, so slather it on 30 minutes before going out. Then, make sure to reapply it every two hours, or more often if you have fair skin or you’re sweating or swimming.
- Don’t buy into the myths. That “base tan” you treasured as a teenager doesn’t give you any protection from getting burned. Cloudy days and shady spots don’t give you a pass on applying SPF; the rays still find you. Using a tanning bed before age 35 increases your cancer risk by 75 percent.
- Take cover in the car. In the United States, most skin cancers are on the left side of the body — the driver’s side. You can apply a transparent film to car windows that will block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays, much like sunglasses. Also, keep sunglasses, a hat, and a bottle of sunscreen in the car for quick protection. If you commute by bus or train, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin.
- Check your skin regularly. Every month, give your skin a good once-over from head to toe. Look for any new moles or changes to existing moles. If you see something that looks off, call your doctor. Once a year, have your doctor perform a more thorough skin check.