one can escape the damaging effects of the sun’s rays. That’s why daily
protection is very important, since it is estimated that up to two-thirds of
your lifetime sun exposure is incidental; i.e., it comes during everyday
activities like driving, gardening, walking to and from your car, etc. Exposure
to the sun can cause sunburn and over the years contributes to skin cancer,
premature wrinkling and other skin damage, and cataracts. Here are ways to
minimize damage from the summer sun:
Try to avoid the sun between 10 a.m.
and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Stay in the shade whenever
possible and keep infants under 6 months of age out of the sun.
over the age of 6 months should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun
protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 that protects against both of the sun’s
harmful ultraviolet rays: UVA and UVB.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before
sun exposure to all uncovered skin except the eyelids. Reapply sunscreen every
two hours, even on cloudy days.
Wear protective clothing: a long-sleeved
shirt, pants, wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Take special precautions when the
National Weather Service’s daily ultraviolet (UV) radiation index predicts UV
exposure levels of moderate and above (5 – 10+) or near surfaces that reflect
the sun’s rays, such as water, snow and sand. Whenever possible, stay inside or
in the shade. Use a high-SPF sunscreen or a sunblock.
How do you choose a
sunscreen? Choose a broad-spectrum one (one that protects against UVA and UVB
ultraviolet rays) with an SPF of at least 15. Realize that an SPF 30 does not
give twice the protection of SPF 15. SPF 15 absorbs 93 percent of the sunburning
rays, and SPF 30 has a 97 percent absorption.
Use a waterproof sunscreen
when you swim outdoors. If you are allergic to sunscreen chemicals, try a
“chemical free” sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or simply
use zinc oxide cream, which is a sunblock.
It doesn’t matter if the
sunscreen is a cream, lotion or gel. Designer labels and brands don’t matter,
either. Get one that feels comfortable on your skin…. And use it, to keep your
skin young looking, wrinkle free and cancer free!
David F. Jaffe, M.D. is
a board-certified dermatologist who practices in Havre de Grace.