August is Summer Sun Safety Month, but don't wait for August to roll around to prepare for fun in the sun. The longer, sunny days of summer present the possibilities of beautiful, fun-filled days. Being outdoors is proven to improve our overall physical and mental health and we've known for years that we need sunlight to produce the vitamin D our bodies require. But we also know that overexposure to the sun may cause skin cancer, regardless of our natural skin tones.
What's in a sunny day?
To determine what you need to gear up for your sun-safe summer days, think about what you're going to be doing. Will you be swimming, biking, fishing, driving, hiking? What you'll be doing helps identify what you need to protect and how.
Your skin is your largest organ, and so skin cancers are more common than cancers of other organs. Apply and reapply sunblock regularly.
Besides sunblock, other ways to protect your skin on or near the water include UPF clothing and staying in the shade. Made from tightly woven and often bright colored fabrics, UPF clothing provides a sunblock that doesn't wear off. A UPF rating works like the SPF rating on sunblock. Generally, the higher the number, the greater sun protection it offers.
Protect your eyes and skin. Ever wonder why sunglass lenses are different colors? They may provide different protection by filtering out certain kinds of glare. If you're fishing, boating, or swimming, you'll want shades that protect your eyes from the reflection of the sun on the water.
When you're on a boat or beach, you may be able to create shade for yourself with awnings or umbrellas, but when you're on the go, UPF clothing may be the gear for you.
Remember that even if your sunscreen says it is water-resistant, you will need to reapply it every 90 minutes when you get wet. That includes wet with sweat!
Does your summer call for mountain top hiking? Remember that with the thinner air in the higher altitudes, there is less natural protection for your skin. Even though it feels cooler on the peaks, you still need to protect yourself with clothing, sunblock, and shades. Don't forget your scalp, ears, and neck! Some skin cancers occur more frequently on the exposed areas. A brimmed hat will help provide shade as you explore the higher altitudes.
The wind in your face feels good and helps cool your body temperature but the UV rays are still pounding down on you. Whether your two wheels are mounted on a bicycle, moped, or Harley, protect your arms, legs, face, and neck with sunscreen and appropriate clothing. Look for sunglasses that will protect against road glare.
Road trips in the car
While many cars today have tinted windows to help reduce UV exposure, long hours in the car may require more protection. Consider screens designed for car windows so the driver can see adequately and the passengers arms and legs are shaded. As with biking, wear eye protection to reduce road glare.
Summer Sun Safety Month is coming soon.
Prepare now for those beautiful days to maintain your body's natural beauty and health! You can enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors while also protecting your skin by
- staying in the shade (or making shade for yourself with hats or umbrellas)
- wearing protective clothing
- applying sunblock
- car window shades
- using the appropriate sunglasses for the occasion.
Remember, not all things are created equal. Check sunscreen for the SPF, clothing for the UPF, and sunglasses for proper UV and glare protection. Then be sure to perform self-examinations on yourself to be on the lookout for early signs of skin cancer!