Every August is National Sun Safety Month. This might not be the most fun national holiday, but it’s an important one. Every year millions of Americans die from cancer and complications to cancer that could have been avoided with proper sun safety precaution measures. Most skin cancers are directly attributable to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Thankfully there are ways to still enjoy the summer sun and keep your skin safe at the same time. And there are more factors to consider than just whether you’re applying sunscreen or not.
Go Out During Non-Peak Hours
The intensity of the sunlight (and therefore the UV rays) during the day increases up until noon and then decreases from there. This means that going out up until the late morning and starting from the late afternoon would be a better idea than going out during the middle of the day. The EPA suggests reducing time in the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM.
This suggestion is increasingly important the closer you live to the equator. Those residing in equatorial regions face stronger UV rays (which means more damage) compared to those living in northern or southern latitudes. Even the difference in the U.S. between living in southern Florida and a northern state like Maine is massive in terms of UV exposure.
Maintain Your Hydration Levels
It’s easy to get dehydrated when it’s hot and sunny outside. This is because you need to replenish the water lost through sweat. On a hot day at the beach you’re likely to be sweating a lot, especially if you’re playing sports or games with friends. It’s important to drink at least two glasses of water per hour if you’re sweating.
Many people get dehydrated at the beach because they only bring one disposable water bottle with them. To ensure your safety, it’s recommended to bring a cooler with multiple water bottles. The cool temperatures will make the water more enjoyable and make it more likely you’ll remember to stay hydrated. Stick to water and avoid sugary carbonated drinks. They might sound refreshing on a hot day but they’re liable to leave you more dehydrated than if you just drank water.
Get Your Skin Checked Once a Year
Being safe during the summer is about more than proactive measures like using sunscreen or staying hydrated. It’s about preventative measures as well. Scheduling an annual trip to the dermatologist is one of the most important things you can do in terms of sun safety. Many people think that if they don’t notice any abnormal lesions on their skin, then it’s a waste of money to go to the dermatologist. But this is far from the truth -- by the time visibly identifiable cancerous lesions appear the likelihood of survival is far lower than if the skin cancer was caught earlier. And the fact that skin cancer is one of the most misdiagnosed forms of cancer just adds to the problem.
It is important to do self-checks, because if you see something unusual you can get to the
dermatologist immediately instead of waiting for your annual visit. But there are visual clues that a trained professional will notice that the average person won’t, which is why it’s so important to stick with the annual appointment even if you don’t think you have any signs or symptoms of skin cancer.
Buy UPF Clothing
Sun-protective clothing is a new type of technology that shields skin cells from the damaging rays of the sun. UPF stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor, and can be beneficial for those with extremely fair skin who burn easily. The UPF ratings system is similar to that of SPF, where a higher number correlates to greater protection. UPF ratings of 40 and above mean less than 2.5% effective UV transmission.
If you can’t afford UPF clothing, which tends to be more expensive than average clothing, it’s still of benefit to your skin to cover up when in the sun. The effective UV transmission rate will be higher for a regular T shirt than a specialty UPF one, but you’ll still absorb fewer rays than if you were shirtless.
Use Oxybenzone-Free Sunscreen
Using sunscreen on a day full of sun exposure is a good idea, but the main ingredient in most formulations can be harmful to human health, especially to men’s health. Oxybenzone is a sunscreen ingredient that has been tied not only to increased incidence of allergic reactions but significantly lower testosterone in adolescent boys. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals can have a host of negative long-term health effects. Since this chemical compound has proven to have endocrine-disrupting effects, it’s best to avoid it.
There are many oxybenzone-free sunscreens that can keep your hormones and your skin safe. Look for the main ingredient to be zinc oxide, which is a powdered mineral that deflects the sun’s rays. It has a much more thorough safety profile than oxybenzone.
These five tips can help you achieve far better sun safety results this August than your peers. And remember, spending money isn’t necessary. Just maintaining proper hydration and avoiding the sun during peak hours will go a long way towards protecting yourself from future skin cancer. This August, let’s enjoy the sun while staying safe.