Sun Safety Tips for the Whole Family

Have Fun in the Sun without Getting Burned

Sunny days spent gardening, playing golf, or just relaxing near a pool or on the beach are summer’s most enjoyable moments. But on an especially lovely day, it’s easy to get caught up in yardwork or an impromptu over-the-fence discussion with the neighbors, and to lose track of how much time you’ve been out in the sun.

If you typically shun the sun because and simply prefer the comfort of an air-conditioned room, then sunscreen and taking precautions against sunburn probably aren’t top of mind for you. But if you love being outside during warm weather, you need to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Think about where you spend your summer days… In the garden? At the pool? On the golf course or tennis court? Sun lovers need a good sunscreen and protective clothing that’s appropriate for whatever they’re doing outside.

SPF and Other Sunscreen Considerations

The type of activities you enjoy, and where you enjoy them factor into the sunscreen you choose. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends looking for these three features in your sunscreen:

  • Broad spectrum, to protect against UVA and UVB rays
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistant; you can apply less frequently when you sweat or swim

Is Sunscreen Safe?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced it is looking into 12 ingredients commonly used in the manufacture of sunscreen because they are absorbed into the body. However, they did not declare that the ingredients were “unsafe”. The FDA also encouraged people to continue to use sunscreen to stay sun safe. If you’re concerned about the safety of your sunscreen, look for a formula that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Both ingredients are “generally recognized as safe and effective” and neither are included in the list of ingredients that the FDA is investigating. Both are also considered a good choice for anyone with sensitive skin.

The Right Way to Apply Sunscreen

Sunscreen should be applied before you go outside, not when you’re already exposed to the sun. Try to apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go out and be sure to use sunscreen on any skin that will be uncovered. One ounce of sunscreen is usually enough to cover an adult. For easy reference, one ounce of sunscreen will fill a shot glass. Pay special attention to your ears, neck, and the tops of your feet and hands. Get help with hard-to-reach spots like your back and the back of your shoulders.

Use a lip balm with SPF 15 or more to protect your lips from getting burned and reapply after eating or drinking if necessary. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, and right away after taking a swim, even if you’re using a waterproof formula.

Protective Clothing Can Block Damaging UV Rays

Some hair products contain sunscreen to protect your hair and scalp, but nothing provides more protection for your head, face and neck than a wide brimmed hat.

Although it may be tempting to go sleeveless or to wear shorts to stay cool, if you plan to be in the sun for a long time, lightweight, light-colored tops with long sleeves and pants that cover your legs will provide an extra layer of protection.

Hikers, cyclists, golfers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts may want to invest in “ultraviolet protection” clothing for extended outdoor adventures. The ultraviolet protection factor or UPF is gauged by the amount of UV radiation that can pass through the clothing to your skin. Anything under UPF 15 provides no protection. UPF of 15-20 provides “good” protection, 25-35 UPF will give “very good:” protection, and a UPF of 40-50+ provides excellent protection. Check the websites of retailers that sell camping and hiking equipment for the best selection.

Need More Convincing? Skin Cancer and Other Reasons to Cover Up

The American Academy of Dermatology states that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer to strike people in the United States, and they estimate that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, claims a life every hour.

Certain drugs can make your skin more sensitive to sun, too, especially some antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medications, and some antibiotics. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you need to take special sun precautions for any of your medications.

Keep Pets Sun Safe Too

Your furry best friends need help to stay sun safe too. Dogs with thin coats can get sunburn, and any pup can suffer damage to their paws and pads from walking on hot concrete or asphalt. Make sure that outdoor pets have plenty of shade, shelter and water during summer months; better yet, bring them inside to stay cool when temps start to climb.

More Sun Safety Tips

Staying safe in the sun requires a little planning and plenty of common sense. Avoid being very active when the sun is at its peak – typically between 10 and 2. If you’re golfing, walking, or otherwise exerting yourself, be sure to stay hydrated, take frequent breaks, seek out a shady spot while you rest, and know when to get back inside.