As the gray winter months fade away and warmer weather beckons you outside, the first thing you’ll want to do is dump those layers of clothing and feel the warmth of the suns rays on your skin. Why not—it’s springtime!
The season’s longer days and milder temperatures can be the perfect time to revel in your favorite outdoor activities. But unless you are sun smart, even the mild spring sun can damage your skin, leading to age spots, wrinkles and yes, skin cancer. No matter the time of year, its important to recognize that the rules don’t change when it comes to protecting your skin against the suns damaging rays. Here’s a primer on how to smartly indulge your spring fever.
Find a broad-spectrum sunscreen you’ll like and use regularly with an SPF rating of at least 30 to provide full UVB and UVA protection. Remember to apply it to any area of your body that is exposed to the sun, and just as importantly, plan to reapply it frequently. Sunscreen becomes less effective the longer you leave it on, so a good rule of thumb is to reapply every two hours.
Same Sunscreen, New Labels
As of Dec. 17, product claims such as sweatproof and waterproof had to be replaced with the term water-resistant in addition to providing expected duration of SPF protection based on standard testing. The new guidelines will help sunscreen users know when to reapply.
Covering up is another essential part of effectively protecting your skin. We’ve come a long way from the first shirts with a UPF rating (the term used for sun-protective apparel) that resembled burlap sacks. Quality rash guards and sun shirts that work great in and out of the water are now available in a variety of styles for children or adults. Wear a hat and sunglasses to provide protection for your face, eyes, ears and head.
If your plan is simply to slather on the sunscreen, soak up hours of rays and think you’re protecting yourself, think again. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection— the American Academy of Dermatology also recommends seeking shade when the suns rays are the strongest, from late morning to mid-afternoon. Another source of UV rays that sometimes gets overlooked is reflection from water, snow and sand, so don’t assume that you’ll only need to watch out for sunlight from above.
Overexposure to the sun can lead to cosmetic concerns like wrinkles, age spots and broken blood vessels. Other effects can be much more damaging and significant, including cancer. The number of women under 40 diagnosed with basal cell cancer has more than doubled in the last 30 years. Protecting ourselves from these effects starts with smart decisions to safeguard our skin.
Heather Rogers, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in the prevention and treatment of sun damage and skin cancer. She is an active member of many medical societies including the American Academy of Dermatology.