As children, summertime meant endless outdoor fun. As teens, it meant sunbathing with baby oil to ensure the darkest tan. Fast-forward to adulthood, where a thinning ozone layer and a higher incidence of skin cancer have made us wary of enjoying sunlight. But, while cancer is a serious concern, you don’t have to become a summer shut-in. Use these tips to help you safely enjoy your season in the sun.
Avoid 10 to 4
For years, health experts and Atlanta meteorologists have warned us to stay indoors during the heat of the day. Avoid the peak hours of the sun. Its rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so try to schedule outdoor activities around those times.
Slather on Sunscreen
Liberally apply sunscreen about 20 to 30 minutes before going outside. Because the sun emits two types of harmful rays — UVA and UVB — your sunscreen should provide broad-spectrum protection against both, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.
Reapply, Reapply, Reapply
Reapplying sunscreen may be the most neglected step in the sun-safety regimen. Don’t just put it on and forget it. Sunscreen should be reapplied about every two hours while you’re outdoors, and every 45 minutes if you’re swimming.
Head out with a hat that protects your face, neck and ears. Choose one with a wide brim at least 3 to 4 inches around for suitable coverage. The bucket and wide-brimmed farmer’s hats, in a lightweight straw or cotton twill, are two classic, stylish choices.
Seek shade, but do so with caution. While trees and umbrellas provide protection, you still need to protect yourself under them. The sun’s rays can scatter, penetrate and reflect to reach you.
Dress for the Occasion
Covering up in dark, tight-knit fabric is the best way to protect your skin, but it’s no fun in the summer heat. Fortunately, some companies make lightweight clothing with effective sun protection. These items bear an ultraviolet protection factor or UPF (think of it as an SPF for fabric) of 15 to 50.
Play Movie Star
You’ve got a better reason to shield your eyes. The eye area is incredibly vulnerable. Prolonged sun exposure can damage your eyes and increase your risk of developing eye disease. I recommend sunglasses that block 99 percent to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
By Dr. Jonathan Lee, medical director of the melanoma and sarcoma program at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute. Visit northsidemsog.com for more information.