Summer is just weeks away. Although most people know you need to slather on the sunscreen before you step out in a swimsuit, did you know that plenty of other activities can leave skin exposed and vulnerable to sun damage? In fact, it is estimated that most of our sun exposure over a lifetime does not come while at the beach or pool.
Most of the sun we get is from incidental exposure; that sneaky sun that hits our skin while performing daily activities on sunny days, like walking the dog, going to the store, driving or waiting to cross the street. According to some experts, incidental sun exposure can account for a whopping 80% of the sun exposure we get in our lifetime!
Even though most people would not dream of going to the beach without sunscreen and unprotected from the damaging ultraviolet rays from the sun for two or more hours, that’s what is happening with the cumulative effect of 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure, multiple times throughout the day. And in the summer, outdoor activities such as gardening, golf, tennis, hiking and going to backyard barbeques increases the exposure dramatically. The cumulative effect of the sun’s ultraviolet rays over time damages the skin, increases the risk of skin cancer and causes premature aging. Therefore it’s important to think about proper sun protection every day, in order to effectively reduce the risk of skin cancer and prevent premature skin aging.
To have a healthy, sun-safe summer, follow a few simple steps:
- Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 and apply it liberally. There is little difference between an SPF 30, or 50 or 100, therefore it’s best to choose one that you like and will use… then use it often. The two biggest sunscreen mistakes: not using enough of it (should use a shot glass-sized amount for the whole body) and relying too much on your sunscreen for all the protection you need. (See #2)
- Although sunscreen is necessary, it’s not 100% effective in blocking out all the sun’s rays. So add a hat, sunglasses, and clothing for the best protection. And whenever possible, seek shade.
- Try to plan outdoor activities that avoid the sun at its strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
I talk to my patients about making good choices with sun protection every day in the summer, regardless of whether it’s a beach day or not. There are great options for daily face and body lotions with sunscreen ingredients available at the local pharmacy that make sun protection a seamless part of a morning skin care routine.