By Allie Smith
With the sun peeking out more every day and summer approaching, everyone is eager to spend time outside in the warm weather Pennsylvania has been experiencing lately. While it is great to spend time outside, the importance of sun-protection shouldn’t be overlooked.
Protecting oneself from the sun is important because aside from the hazards of heat, too much sun exposure can lead to serious health problems like skin cancer, premature wrinkling and even damage to eyes. Sunburn is best prevented by limiting time in the sun, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., which are peak sunlight hours. Wearing protective clothing like a broad-brimmed hat, a long skirt or pants and a shirt with sleeves that cover the arms can help one avoid sunburn. The final way to avoid sunburn is to use a sunscreen that minimizes the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
What is sunscreen? According to medicinenet.com, an online source of medical information, “sunscreen is any substance or material that protects the skin from UV radiation.” Sunscreens are available in the forms of cream, gel, ointment, topical lotion, or spray that can applied to the skin. A salve or stick can be applied to the lips, nose and eyelids as well. Sunscreen is available in a wide range of SPF’s. SPF is an abbreviation for sun-protection factor and can range from numbers like 15, 30 or 50 that indicate the degree of sunburn protection provided.
Sunscreen should be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. A common mistake when applying sunscreen is applying too little, which can reduce the effect of the SPF. Five to six teaspoons or one ounce is the recommended amount of sunscreen to cover the entire body and should be applied every two hours when spending prolonged periods of time in the sun.
People who have sensitive skin that burns easily should always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 more. Not all sunscreens are equally effective against UV radiation. Some sunscreens protect against only one type of UV radiation: ultraviolet-B (UVB). Others protect against both types of ultraviolet radiation that reach earth’s atmosphere from the sun: ultraviolet-B and ultraviolet-A (UVA). Sunscreens that are classified as “broad spectrum” protect against both UVA and UVB and are recommended for everyone.
Sunscreens containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide protect against UVA and UVB. Zinc oxide blocks more UV radiation than titanium dioxide and is the preferred ingredient in sunscreens. It’s a good idea to apply sunscreen very generously because skimping means one will not receive full sun-protection. Sunglasses that provide 100% protection against UVA and UVB radiation should also be worn in the sun.
Good sunscreen and sunglasses are only one part of complete sun-protection. Effective sun-protection also includes limiting sun exposure and wearing protective clothing. To learn more about staying safe in the sun and preventing skin cancer, visit skincancer.org or talk to your doctor.