4 Steps to Practice Safe Sun

Woman wearing a straw hat and smiling. Portrait of a happy young woman in blue bikini with panama hat looking at camera with copy space.

The summer is in full swing, and now is the time to take advantage of the nice weather by getting outside. And you should — it’s good for you! Studies show people are more active and less prone to depression in the summer months. But it’s important to keep in mind a few helpful tips to get the most out of your summer fun, without compromising your skin health. Scientific studies show definitively that ultraviolet rays (UVL) from the sun can cause skin cancer and accelerate the skin aging. However, there are many steps that can be taken to have fun in the sun while protecting your skin at the same time. From a dermatologist’s perspective, here are a few important guidelines to help you and your family stay safe in the sun throughout the summer (and beyond).

1. Think beyond the bottle. The first step in protecting you and your family from the harmful UVL rays that are emitted from the sun is to start thinking differently about sun protection. Don’t rely too much on sunscreen to do the entire job of protecting the skin from UVL. At what time will you be outside? If possible, do outdoor activities during hours when the sun is less intense, like before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Will there be shade? If not, bring your own shade with umbrellas, hats, and even folding chairs with built-in canopies to block the sun.

2. Shop smart. Have fun with outdoor activities, but cover up at the same time. There has never been a better time to check out sun-protective clothing. The newest fabrics are lightweight, dry quickly, and look very stylish. Look for sun-protective clothing with at least SPF 50+ from a reputable company that has been manufacturing sun-protective clothing for years. There are many reliably good products.

3. Cover your eyes. Put the hat and sunglasses on every day, all the time. Many people underestimate how important a good hat (not a baseball cap) and sunglasses are in their sun protection plan. Excessive sun exposure causes cataract formation in the eyes, so everyone should start wearing sunglasses at an early age. A wide-brim hat can help shield the face and neck from sun even better than sunscreen. The best hats for women are crushable hats which can be stowed in your purse, hat, baby bag, etc. Throw the hat on your head even when running errands during the day in the summer months because this “incidental” sun can add up and cause premature aging, fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and increase the risk of skin cancer.

4. Pull out the sunscreen. Notice I put this one last? In my opinion, sunscreen is just a part of a good sun protection program and should not be thought of as the only step to take to keep you and your family safe in the sun. When choosing sunscreen, look for broad-spectrum coverage of at least 50 SPF that is “very water resistant” to last up to 80 minutes in water. For people who have sensitive skin, the physical sunscreens are best because the active ingredients, zinc and titanium, sit on the surface of the skin and don’t irritate. You may want to splurge on more expensive physical sunscreen for the face because it won’t go on thick and white. For the body, lotions and stick formulations are a good choice. Although spray sunscreens are convenient to spray on the body, be sure to apply them properly (not outside when it’s windy) otherwise the actual SPF on the skin may be far lower that what is advertised on the container. A great solution for active moms who spend many summer hours on the soccer field, by the pool, at the beach, etc. is a powder sunscreen. Powder sunscreen with a built-in brush is portable, won’t spill and gives a little color to the face without making it greasy. It’s a perfect solution for the woman on the go that needs facial sun protection but hates applying greasy sunscreen all day. (This is my personal go-to product. I swear by powder sunscreen).
So have a great summer and keep practicing safe sun! Your skin will thank you for it for years to come.