- By Viki Spector
- June 14, 2013
- Comments Off
Wear sunscreen and protective clothing – which includes a hat. No doctor will advise you not to wear sunscreen or a hat. This is serious. Do you know why? We can’t see it, touch it or taste it. Sometimes you can feel it. The warmth of a 6 billion year old star carries waves of light over 92,000,000 miles and we soak it up. It makes us look old and it makes us sick.
Ultraviolet radiation damages our skin’s cellular DNA (I told you this was serious). UVA rays penetrate deep and are a major cause of skin aging and wrinkling. Tanning booths can emit dangerous levels of UVA rays. UVB rays are shorter and make themselves known through sunburn - causing damage to the more superficial layers of our skin. Ultraviolet rays can be sneaky. UVA can penetrate glass and clouds any time of the day, all year. UVB radiation is also a force to consider year round – especially at high altitudes and near reflective surfaces (water, snow, pavement) where as much as 80% of the rays can bounce back, creating a double whammy.
But by wearing a hat, sunscreen and protective clothing, we can mitigate those reactions and still enjoy the benefits of a sunny day – gardening, hiking, swimming. Check the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) labels on your sunscreen. Although SPF ratings are not perfect, they will give you an indication of the level of protection. Consider your skin type – do you sunburn easily? Get a high SPF. Do you have allergies or sensitive skin? A child’s sunscreen may be appropriate for you. What will you be doing? If you’re swimming, definitely look for a sunscreen with water resistant features . Running? Look for sweat proof. And reapply frequently.
Use the same consideration in deciding what to wear for your day in the sun. You can buy special sun-protective clothing and hats with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings. There is even laundry detergent you can use to boost the protection of fabrics. Learn what colors and fabrics are natural sun protectants. Bright or dark colored clothes reflect more UV rays than light, pastel colors do. A good pair of sunglasses and a tightly woven wide brimmed hat will protect your face and eyes. Unbleached cotton, wool, any tightly woven fabric or straw, 100% polyester and shiny polyester blends all provide good protection. Bleached cotton, knits, polyester crepe, old and worn fabrics should be avoided. Hold your hat or shirt up the light, can you see through it? If you can, it’s probably not a good barrier between your head and the sun’s radiation.
Loosely fitted, tightly woven clothing is optimal for sun protection. Hats that are wide enough to cover your shoulders are good for the beach or pool. For hiking and outdoor activities, there are hats with long, wide bills and panels down the back that give you 360 degrees of sun protection for your face, ears and neck. Frequently, you’ll see hats that are designed with a dark under-brim. This is not solely a fashion statement – a dark under-brim will reflect the sun’s rays when they bounce back at you from a lake, sand at the beach or even a tennis court. If you have particular concerns about your face, wear a scarf under your hat for even more neck and ear protection.
You don’t need an excuse to wear a hat, but this is a good one. Get serious about sun protection.
PREVENTION GUIDELINES (courtesy of the Skin Cancer Foundation)
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- 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 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.