Learn about having fun safely in the glorious sun and how to protect yourself and your family from UV radiation skin damage and sun-induced cataracts.
Seek (or Make) Shade
First off, be sun-smart: when the sun’s rays are fierce, duck and cover.
- Use shade, clothing and hats to keep from getting overexposed to the sun’s potentially harmful rays. Hats can be very helpful to provide increased shade. For best benefit, use a wide-brim hat to provide ear and nose protection.
- Be aware that shade and many fabrics filter and do not completely block exposure. Water sand, concrete, snow and other similar surfaces reflect light and can add to the sun’s direct effect.
- Keep infants in the shade — they lack tanning pigments (melanin) to protect their skin.
Plan Around the Sun
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the strongest midday, when the sun is directly overhead. If your schedule is flexible, go outdoors in early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky.
Protect Your Eyes
Not just a fashion accessory, sunglasses with UV-A and UV-B protection can help protect your eyes from too much sun exposure which are a cause of cataracts.
No Fake Bake
This may go without saying, but avoid tanning salons. Adding excess UV exposure damages your skin and unprotected eyes. For those of you who feel naked without a tan, there are many spray-on products — from those professionally applied by hand to do-it-yourself at-home products.
As a general rule, you should use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 to 50. It should be reapplied every two hours if you are working or exercising outdoors or are swimming or doing water sports.
But, Is Your Sunscreen Safe?
You may have heard that some sunscreens may pose a danger to your health; recent concerns about the efficacy and safety of ingredients contained in sunscreens have caused groups such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to take a second look at the sunscreens people are slathering on themselves and their children.
In their fourth annual Sunscreen Guide, EWG researchers recommend only 39, or 8 percent, of 500 beach and sport sunscreens on the market. The low marks are due to exaggerated SPF claims (SPFs greater than 50) and recent developments in understanding the possible hazards of some sunscreen ingredients, in particular, new U.S. government data linking a form of vitamin A used in some sunscreens to accelerated growth of skin tumors and lesions. EWG has also flagged products with oxybenzone, a hormone-disrupting compound that penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream.
The EWG’s Senior VP for Research likened many sunscreens as the equivalent of “modern-day snake oil,” plying customers with claims of broad-spectrum protection but not providing it, while exposing people to potentially hazardous chemicals that can penetrate the skin into the body.
In all, EWG researchers assessed 1,400 sunscreen products, including beach and sports lotions, sprays and creams, moisturizers, make-up and lip balms. The 39 top beach and sports products that earned EWG’s “green” rating all contain the minerals zinc or titanium. EWG researchers were unable find any non-mineral sunscreens that scored better than “yellow.”