By EMILEE DRERUP
Summer is upon us. For most, this usually means taking any opportunity to be outside to enjoy summer activities in the sun, especially since sunny days have been so few and far between recently. Getting outside and soaking up the rays can have its advantages, such as improving our mood and creating vitamin D, which can improve bone health according to healthline.com
Even so, finding the right balance of rays is important. Overexposure to ultraviolet light (UV) can damage your skin and increase your risk for skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. It is diagnosed more commonly each year than all other cancers combined.
Taking steps to protect our skin from the sun will help us enjoy outside activities without putting us at risk. The American Cancer Society recommends taking the following precautions when out in the sun:
1. Cover up:
This can include wearing light clothing that protects as much skin as possible (including wide-brimmed hats) and using sunglasses that block UV rays.
According to the “Keeping Sun Safe” fact sheet from Ohio State University Extension, clothing made from either tightly woven fabric such as denim or closely knitted fabric in dark colors provides the most protection. Lightweight knit fabrics, such as cotton T-shirts, will provide the least protection (sun protection factor rating of 4.8, if white).
For sunglasses, choose a pair that blocks 100 percent radiation in order to prevent eye damage. Make sure to read labels and that they include a protection factor. The color or darkness of the lenses does not indicate how much UV protection they provide, as it is an invisible chemical applied to the lenses.
2. Use sunscreen:
Select a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is water resistant with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Reapply every two hours and even more frequently if swimming or sweating.
Sunscreen with a broad-spectrum label has been tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to prevent both UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreens protect against UVB rays, which cause sunburn, but UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer. The SPF listed on sunscreen is the level of protection against UVB rays. The higher the number, the higher the protection, but no sunscreen can protect you completely.
Per the American Cancer Society, no sunscreen is “waterproof” or “sweatproof” but most are water resistant. Look for labels that specify whether it lasts for 40 or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. This will give you an idea of how often to reapply. A good rule of thumb is every two hours and more often, especially if you are toweling dry.
3. Seek shade:
Do this especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when UV rays are the strongest.
Keeping sun-safe should be second nature when heading outside this summer. Shield your skin to prevent long-term health effects related to overexposure. To find out more about staying sun safe and details about the health concerns of ultraviolet light exposure, check out the OSU Extension fact sheets HSC-7 and CDFS-199, respectively, found on ohioline.osu.edu
Drerup is the family and consumer sciences educator at the Ohio State University Extension of Hancock County.