When you were growing up, your parents may have hounded you about putting on sunscreen. At the time, sunscreen might have seemed like an annoying, greasy nuisance, but now that you’re grown up with kids of your own you understand the importance of sun safety. Sunburns and overexposure to the sun could cause skin cancer, which is the most common type of cancer in the United States. And make no mistake—skin cancer is serious stuff. It can be fatal. The CDC says that ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes.
With summer rapidly approaching, it’s crucial that your family makes sun safety a priority. Running around outside, swimming, playing sports, and working outside leave you vulnerable to those invisible (but very scary) UV rays, which, as we said, can cause some serious damage to your skin. To help you keep everyone sun-safe this summer, we’ll go over some tips for sun protection.
1. Avoid getting a sunburn.
Sunburns hurt. It’s a bit of a no-brainer to do everything you can to avoid them. Along with turning your skin bright pink or red, sunburns can raise your risk of developing skin cancer. Chill out in the shade—you’ll probably feel more comfortable, anyways.
2. Hide inside from about 10am-4pm.
The sun is at its strongest in the middle of the day, so if you’re planning to be outside, try to plan your adventure for when the sun’s a little weaker. Besides, if you hide inside you can avoid the heat. So kick back, grab an ice-cold lemonade, and chill inside during the middle of the day. Air conditioning is nice.
3. Put on your sun armor.
To protect your skin from the sun’s rays, wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing that’s made with a tight weave. Add a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head, face, and back of your neck and you’re ready to roll! Choose a hat that’s made of a tight weave, too, to block those pesky sun rays. Keep in mind that darker colors may do a better job of blocking the sun’s rays.
Sunglasses are also great—they’ll protect your eyes from cataracts. Make sure that your sunglasses offer both UVA and UVB protection. There are different types of UV rays, but your sunglasses should be equipped to deflect these two.
4. Respect that sunscreen is your new BFF.
Sunscreen is a huge part of protecting yourself and your kids from getting sunburnt. It’s one of your greatest sun safety essentials because it either absorbs or reflects the light to keep you safe from those harmful rays. Grown-ups should choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15, and children should use sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
Remember that sunscreen isn’t a “one time and I’m good” type of thing. You have to keep putting on new coats throughout the day, especially if you’re swimming or sweating a lot. Your sunscreen won’t do much good if it’s washed off. Make sure that you keep slathering it on. Don’t limit sunscreen use to just your face, either. Don’t be shy about putting sunscreen on all skin that’s exposed to sunlight.
Also, keep in mind that sunscreen does have expiration dates. Keep an eye on those.
5. Watch any suspect-looking moles.
If you have a mole that looks funny to you, make sure to have it checked out. It’s best to see a dermatologist sooner than later if you think you have a mole that looks problematic. Take note of any moles that seem new or any moles that have changed in their appearance.
6. Know if you’re at a higher risk.
Skin cancer can happen to anyone, period. But there are some things that might increase your risk, meaning that you need to be super vigilant about your sun exposure. People who are at higher risk include:
- Those with lots of moles
- Those with light hair, light eyes, pale skin, and freckles
- People who burn easily and whose skin doesn’t like to tan
- People who take medications that could increase their sensitivity to the sun
Like we said, even if you don’t have any risk factors you still have to be careful when you’re outdoors. Treat the sun with a better-safe-than-sorry philosophy and take care to protect yourself from sunburns.
7. Skip the tanning bed.
Tanning beds can be really harmful to your skin. They can be just as bad for your skin as being outside in the sun. Going to a tanning salon is something that you can control, so do your skin a favor and take a rain check.
Don’t let the sun put a damper on your summer fun. Be careful when you’re outside, and don’t forget that sunscreen. Cover up to protect your skin from the sun, and try to avoid being outside for long periods of time around the middle of the day when the sun is at its strongest. Your skin is sensitive, and you have to protect it by developing sun safety skills.