Summer is here and with all the fun of pool time and BBQs comes the risk of sun exposure. Sunlight is essential for synthesis of Vitamin D and affects our mood, however, ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damaging effects on the skin including sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging. In addition to using protective clothing and avoiding sun exposure during the peak of the day, there are many varieties of over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreens available.
How do you choose which sunscreen to purchase? Make sure your sunscreen is broad spectrum and covers for both UVA rays and UVB rays, which are the type of radiation that causes sunburn, damages skin and can contribute to skin cancer. The sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of how well a sunscreen will protect skin from UVB rays. A minimum of SPF 30 is important for lighter skinned individuals and direct sun exposure with outdoor activities. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UVB rays, so as you can see the SPF scale is not linear.
How about coverage for children? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding the use of sunscreen on children under the age of 6 months. Photo-protective clothing is available which have a variety of Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF) levels, depending on the material used, tightness of the weave, color and condition of the material used.
Can I get a sunburn under the water? Many factors can increase the risk of sunburn. In addition to high altitude, reflection from snow and water may increase your risk of sunburn and skin damage. Wet skin is more susceptible to redness. Some studies have shown that excessive alcohol intake can also increase your risk of sunburn. Even though cloud coverage can block some sun, you can still have exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to lather up under the sun!
When applying sunscreen, be generous and apply at least 15-30 minutes before sun exposure! Remember to reapply every 2 hours even if your sunscreen is labelled as “water resistant.”
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