For most Americans, Memorial Day weekend is the kick-off to the summer season. Many of us will celebrate this national holiday with family and friends, participating in outdoor activities such as barbecuing and swimming. In most cities, including our lovely Santa Barbara, the sun is out in abundance and we cannot wait to get out and soak up some rays. Before you hit the beach, the pool, or your backyard barbecue party today, we cannot stress how important it is to be mindful of the sun’s intensity and urge you to protect your skin (and your kids skin too!) by applying sunscreen throughout the day.
Here are some facts about the sun and sun protection to keep in mind (credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation):
- Heads Up! Skin cancers are disproportionately concentrated on the head – use sunscreen and a hat to protect the head, nose, ears, and neck. Look for hats that have a 3-inch brim or wider – the wider the brim, the better the protection.
- Sunglasses are more than just a fashion statement. Look for glasses that have lenses that absorb/block UV and the bigger the lenses are, the more protection you will have for the delicate skin surrounding the eyes (remember that sun damage is a leading cause of wrinkles!).
- Cover up to block the rays. Clothing is the first line of defense and the single most effective form of sun protection.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen product with an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor time, use an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body before going outside and reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excess sweating.
- Shade is not always completely protective: UVB rays (often considered the most harmful part of sunlight) can reach the skin indirectly whether you are under an umbrella, a tree or a structure. Spending long hours in the shade does not mean you can skip your sunscreen or protective clothing.
- Skin cancer is color blind. Although skin cancer has a higher rate of occurrence in Caucasians, it can affect people of all colors and races.
- After a cool shower or bath, moisturize! Consider using a moisturizer containing vitamin C and vitamin E as they might help limit skin damage.
- Hydrate! A burn draws fluid to the skin surface and away from the rest of the body so drink extra water, juice or sports drinks to prevent dehydration.
- As the sunburn appears, don’t be afraid to use ibuprofen to help cut back on the swelling and redness. Continue to use for the next 48 hours (if needed). It helps to treat the severity of the symptoms which might prevent long-term damage.
- Keep an eye on the damage. If you, or your child, has a blistering burn that covers 20% or more of the body, seek medical attention. Another reason to see the doctor is if the person is experiencing fevers and chills.