We’ll let you in on a secret here at Sunglass Warehouse: We love the sun. We love being in it, soaking it up, and protecting our eyes from it with anything from aviators to sports shades. But here’s another secret: Your eyes aren’t the only thing that needs protecting. Your skin needs your attention, too. An overdose of sunshine can give you wrinkles, sun spots, and even The Big C — cancer. Luckily, there’s tons of protection out there, just waiting for you to grab it, slather it, and wear it. Keep reading for factors that put you at risk for skin cancer as well as tips for looking beach-ready without the negative side effects.
- What are UV Rays?
- How to Protect Yourself from UV Rays
- Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin
- Sun-Sensitive Medications
What are UV Rays?
These rays go deeper into the skin than UVB rays and are responsible for all those signs of aging we don’t want: wrinkles, sagging, and sun spots. They also make the carcinogenic (cancer-causing) effects of UVB rays much worse, and they’re thought now to be the main villain behind skin cancer — all on their own.
These rays turn you into a lobster on the getaway you’ve been looking forward to for six months. UVB rays are the ones responsible for that painful sunburn.
How to Protect Yourself from UV Rays
While being out in the sunshine is always a welcome pleasure, side effects like sunburn are not. Information on the dangers of skin cancer is now widely available, and medical professionals have provided several simple ways to protect against the ultraviolet (UV) rays that cause skin cancer. Following these steps is simple and pain-free, and you will be glad you did.
Applying sunscreen is a MUST when it comes to spending the day outside. Even if your skin rarely burns, you still need to apply it. According to SkinCancer.org, “Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB.” The higher the number, the higher the percentage of UVB rays the screen filters out. So, for example, SPF 15 filters approximately 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 filters approximately 98%. No sunscreen, however, can block all UVB rays. Even more, some sunscreens don’t even block out UVA. Be sure to check the bottle for a broad spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection.
Ideally, sunscreen should be worn daily, even if you work indoors and the only time you’re outside is when you’re going to and from the office. You may be tempted to skip it on cloudy days, but resist the temptation! UV rays can still get through and burn you.
- Choose broad spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
- Wear sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy.
Special Note to Parents: Children under six months of age should not wear sunscreen. Their young skin is sensitive to the chemicals in it. Actually, infant skin is pretty sensitive to the sun in general, so it’s best to shade and cover up your little one if you’re going to be out in the heat.
We’re all for this tip! We even have a whole page on it. Check out our tips on protecting your eyes here.
Wear a Hat
Hats are all the rage now, and what better and good lookin’ way to protect your face and ears than with one? Get a nice, wide-brimmed hat, and you’re set (or any hat for that matter — we’re fans of baseball caps, too). Just be sure you don’t wear a straw one with holes. It defeats the purpose (scalp burn!).
Limit Exposure Time
You really want to play it safe? Just limit the amount of time you’re in the sun. That’s not always possible, because when the sun is shining, you want to be out in it, not hiding under a tree in the shade. So, apply and reapply sunscreen, wear a hat, wear sunglasses, and try to limit how much time you spend in direct sunlight. Take a break in shaded areas when at all possible. Be sure to drink plenty of water, too.
Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin
The body makes this essential vitamin naturally when skin comes into contact with the sun. Vitamin D helps helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for healthy bones. Most people, though, are vitamin D deficient and need to get it through supplements, which can be done by eating certain foods and taking an actual supplement. There’s a whole lot of information out there, but don’t just take it from us. Check out what the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements has to say on vitamin D by clicking here.
Certain medications cause a person to become more sensitive to the sun. The inflammation of the skin caused by adding sunlight to a drug is known as photosensitivity. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any medications prescribed to you — or even that you take at home — to see if they could cause photosensitivity. As always, be sure to read the drug label and package insert, too. A surprising amount of drugs can cause photosensitivity, from acne medication to cardiac medication, diabetes medication to antidepressants. We can’t stress it enough: Always be sure to check with your doctor.