Summer is here! That means long days outside, enjoying the warm weather, playing sports, swimming, hiking, and more! Being active and outside is GREAT for your body and mental health, but the increased sun exposure can lead to skin damage if you aren’t careful. Your skin is your largest organ, and protecting it should be a priority. The sun can provide vital nutrients and boost your mood, but when overexposed, it can also cause painful sunburns and permanent skin damage. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, about 90% of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. This shows sun exposure’s health impact on your skin over time.
How can I protect my skin?
There are many ways to protect yourself from sun exposure, skin damage, and skin cancers. Being vigilant is very important since most people are exposed to the sun daily! According to the American Academy of Dermatology, only about 14% of men and 29% of women use sunscreen regularly an hour before exposure, most of whom are women.
Looking for tips on how to protect your skin? Here are some of our favorites:
Wear sunscreen every day, regardless of the weather.
You are still exposed to the sun even in overcast, rainy, and snowy conditions. While the UV index may be higher at certain times of the year, and with sunny weather, UV rays penetrate clouds, exposing you to the sun regardless of the weather. Apply at least an ounce of sunscreen about 30 minutes before sun exposure for best protection.
When applying sunscreen, the lips, ears, scalp, and hands are commonly neglected areas. Be sure to apply sunscreen everywhere, and don’t forget the little places!
Not all sunscreens are created equal.
Do your research when choosing your sunscreen. Some sunscreens are proven to be more effective than others. Be sure to choose a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection, and research what the highest coverage sunscreens are before going out and purchasing.
Check the expiration date.
Sunscreen DOES expire, so look at the date before applying. Expired sunscreen has lost effectiveness, so don’t rely on last year’s sunscreen to protect you this year! Toss all expired bottles and purchase new ones for the best protection.
It’s not enough to apply sunscreen once in the morning. Most sunscreens last about 90 minutes before you need to reapply. Some sunscreens may tout a longer exposure window but reapply frequently anyways. Apply sunscreen often, especially when sweating and swimming.
Baby skin is EXTRA sensitive.
Keep your babies covered and in the shade before they are six months old. Sunscreen is not safe for babies under six months old, so they should not experience direct sun exposure prior. Baby skin is very susceptible to sun burns, and keeping them cool and shaded is especially important for their delicate skin.
Limit time outside between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm
Between 10 am and 4 pm, UV rays are at their most intense. It’s not always possible to totally avoid being outside during these times, so just be extra vigilant about sunscreen use in this window
Accessorize with sun protection
Lots of sun protection gear doubles as accessories! Find a wide-brim hat and sunglasses that are comfortable and suit your style, and wear them daily. The eyes are susceptible to sun damage, too, so be sure to protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses.
Check your medications
Some medications (oral and topical) can increase your susceptibility to sunburn and skin damage. Discuss this with your doctor to understand your risks and how to proceed safely.
It’s never too late to start.
Many older adults have spent much of their lives exposed to the sun without skin protection. While the skin might already be damaged, it’s NEVER too late to start protecting yourself from further damage. Start saving yourself now with these tips to protect yourself from further damage.
Apex Health is here to support you all summer long, for all your healthcare. Make an appointment via telehealth today!