June 21st marked the first day of summer, and with this most auspicious day comes beach vacations, outdoor adventures, pool parties and sun damage??? Okay, so that last one probably didn’t cross your mind when I mentioned “summer,” sorry to be the Debbie Downer. But as with most things in life, too much of a good thing is in fact, possible. For my fellow summer-lovers and I, that means too much sun can have potentially harmful effects on our health. So for those of you who don’t believe me or need a refresher course in the power of the sun, listen up.
The sun radiates light to earth (duh) and part of this light includes invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays which, when they reach the skin, can cause tanning, burning and serious skin and eye damage. Melanin, a chemical found in our skin, absorbs these dangerous UV rays before they do serious damage. The concentration and color of melanin differs from person to person resulting in different skin colors. The lighter someone’s natural skin color, the less melanin it has to absorb UV rays. Skin tans as the melanin increases in response to sun exposure. But even a “normal” tan can be a sign of sun damage. Sunburns occur when the UV light penetrating the skin exceeds the ability of melanin to protect the skin. Most of us have experienced sunburn at least once in our lives- the red and tender skin, sometimes blisters, fever, chills, nausea, and the dreaded peeling of the skin days later. Never fear sun-lovers, there are loop-holes! Follow these sun safety tips from The Sun Authority to protect yourself this summer, you beach babe, you.
This should bring tears to my mother’s eyes. Time and time again my mom warned me to put on my sunscreen, “You’re going to regret it if you don’t,” she’d say as I headed to the beach. I hate to admit it, but she was right. The days I chose to not heed her advice usually left me red as a tomato and in serious pain (I have blonde hair and blue eyes, I don’t know who I thought I was kidding by not wearing sunscreen). Sunscreen is the numero uno way to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun!
Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is the recommendation for the general population, and an SPF of 30 or higher for young children and older adults. Make sure the label states that it protects against UVA and UVB rays, sometimes called broad-spectrum sunscreen. Opt for waterproof sunscreen if you’re heading to the beach or pool. Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside and don’t forget those pesky spots like lips, ears, feet and neck. Reapply every two hours or so.
Sunglasses- Not Just for Hiding Dark Circles
Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement or a way to spy on the cute life guard without him noticing (don’t tell me you haven’t done it). Sunglasses are an integral part of sun safety. Sun exposure can lead to a burned cornea or even cataracts later in life. Purchase sunglasses with labels that ensure they offer 100% UV protection. And don’t forget about the kiddos, they need shades too!
Put a Lid on It
Wear a wide brimmed hat to block your face from direct sun and to protect your scalp from burning (a painful mistake if you’ve ever experienced it). This is another way to protect those baby-blues from the sun’s rays so go ahead, get that Fedora you’ve been eyeing.
Take a Break
The sun is strongest from 10am to 4pm so limit your exposure during these times. Eat lunch in the shade or just take a little nap during the middle of the day. If you have to be outdoors, be sure to reapply sunscreen often and wear protective clothing!
Don’t Let Those Clouds Fool Ya
Even on cloudy or overcast days, UV rays can break through the clouds and reflect off water, snow, sand and pavement. So take the same sun protection steps you would on a normal sunny day. Wind too, can lead you into a false sense of security since the breeze or temperature keeps your skin feeling cool on the surface. Mother Nature is just so tricky!
Sorry, I’m not advocating drinking on the beach here, but staying hydrated is just as important as protecting your skin and eyes. Being in the sun all day is taxing and will increase the risk of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Drink cold water or other non-sugary beverages throughout the day and pay attention to your body.
Don’t Stop When the Sun Goes Down
The American Academy of Dermatologists suggests using products that contain retinoids, peptides or growth factors for their repairing properties. You can find a wide array of these types of lotions and balms at your local drugstore. And if you do skimp on the sunscreen and end up looking like a lobster (ahem, I told you so) take a cool bath or apply a cool, wet compress to your skin to help ease the pain and heat. Apply aloe vera gel to all sunburned areas and knock back a few anti-inflammatory pills, like ibuprofen, to lessen the pain. If your skin begins to blister or your symptoms don’t subside, head to the doctor.
Now, go enjoy these first few days of summer safely!
Maggie Voelker works as an Internet Marketing Specialist in Indianapolis, IN. She loves shopping for sunglassesand accessories, reading, cooking and talking to whoever will listen.