Ways to Stay Safe in the Sun this Summer

Summer is just around the corner! That means fun in the sun with days on the beach, floating on the river, or afternoons by the pool. Since it is Sun Awareness Week, I thought it would be a good time to talk about ways to stay safe in the sun this summer. 

Sun safety isn’t a seasonal concern. You’re exposed to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays daily, even on a cloudy day. So, it’s important to protect your skin from sun damage all year. Exposure to harmful UV rays without the proper protection can cause painful sunburns, eye damage, premature aging, sunspots (freckles), and skin cancer. 

Skin cancer is the most diagnosed cancer in the United States. The first way to stay safe in the sun is to pay attention to the UV index. You can find the UV index every day on the Apple weather app on an iPhone, or any weather app. If it is 3 or higher in your area, it’s time to pull out the sunscreen.

Aside from checking the UV index, here are some tried and true ways to stay safe in the sun. 

1. Use Sunscreen with at least 30 SPF

SPF is short for the sun protection factor and the number represents the amount of protection against UV rays. SPF works by adding protection to your skin’s natural defenses against UV rays. The outer layer of your skin, known as the epidermis, contains melanin. This is what protects your skin by causing it to get darker (a suntan). However, too much exposure to the sun can allow UV rays to penetrate the deeper layers of your skin. This is why you get a sunburn and damage your skin. 

SPF extends your natural protection into the deeper layers of your skin. For example, an SPF of 15 provides 15 times more protection to your skin. An SPF of 30 is 30 times more protection, and so on. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that will block both UVA and UVB rays, which can penetrate past the epidermis. You need to re-apply sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or sweating. 

2. Wear Sunglasses

UV rays can take a big toll on your eyes if you don’t protect them with sunglasses. UV rays can damage your cornea. Over the long-term, constant sun exposure to unprotected eyes can cause blurred vision, cataracts, watery eyes, and blindness. The good news is that you don’t have to go buy $200 sunglasses to get protection. Nearly all sunglasses offer protection against UV rays. Be sure to check the tag to make sure. 

3. Wear Protective Clothing

It may sound miserable, but wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants can provide added protection from the sun. A dry t-shirt or a beach cover-up are great substitutes if long sleeves and pants aren’t practical, especially in the 100-degree heat we experience here in Texas. Hats offer some of the best protection against UV rays, especially to your face. A hat with a brim can protect not only your face but your ears and the back of your neck as well. 

4. Limit Your Time in the Sun

Keep in mind that the sun’s UV rays are the most powerful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Even if you are wearing sunscreen, you should limit your time in the sun. To know how much time is considered safe depends on the UV index. The higher the UV index, the more limited your time in the sun should be. You can also take into consideration the pigmentation of your skin. The darker your skin is, the longer you can safely stay in the sun. 

Here’s an easy breakdown of how long you should stay in the sun: 

  • A UV index of 0-2: 30 minutes to 2 hours is considered safe. 
  • Index of 3-6: 20 to 90 minutes
  • Index of 7-9: Only 7 to 9 minutes if you are light-skinned, others are safe for up to 40 minutes. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat with a UV index of 7 to 9, and also stay in the shade as much as possible. 
  • Index of 10 or higher: If you are light-skinned your time in the sun should not exceed 6 minutes. For others, no more than 30 minutes of exposure is safe. Sunscreen, protective clothing, sunglasses, and a hat should be worn. 

5. Skip the Tanning Bed

Yes, tans look good. However, no amount of tanning is healthy. Your body tans to protect you from harmful UV rays. It doesn’t even begin until these UV rays get through the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. Tanning beds use artificial UV rays, which are much more dangerous than actual sun exposure. While a tan isn’t as dangerous to your skin as a sunburn is, it’s still dangerous. The best alternative is to use a self-tanner or tanning mouse. 

6. Get Vitamin D through Nutrition

One of the benefits of being in the sun is that helps create vitamin D in your skin. Vitamin D is one of two micronutrients that your body can create on its own, along with vitamin K which helps absorb vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to UVB rays, which typically only penetrate the top layer of your skin, the cholesterol in your skin converts these rays into vitamin D. 

If you are concerned that you aren’t getting enough vitamin D, try adding more foods rich in vitamin D. Some of the best food sources of vitamin D include, salmon, orange juice, sardines, beef liver, tuna, spinach, and bananas. 

Taking these steps this summer can help protect your skin from harmful UV rays exposure and lower your risk of skin cancer. If you must be in the sun this summer, whether it be a fun day at the pool or a relaxing beach vacation, be sure to take care of your skin! 

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Medical disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. While I am a certified nutritionist and wellness coach, I am not providing healthcare, medical, or nutritional therapy services or attempting to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any physical, mental, or emotional issue. The information provided on this website or any materials provided by Very Well Wellness is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. Always seek advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before undertaking a new health regimen. Do not disregard medical advice or delay seeking medical advice because of information you read on this website or any materials provided by Very Well Wellness. Do not start or stop any medications without speaking to your medical or mental health provider.

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