Sun Safety: Save Your Skin
Dress With Care
Wear clothes that protect your body. Cover as much of your body as possible if you plan to be outside on a sunny day. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and long pants. Sun-protective clothing is now available in stores. However, the FDA does not regulate such products unless the manufacturer intends to make a medical claim. Consider using an umbrella for shade.
Be Serious About Sunscreen
Check sunscreen labels to make sure you get:
- A high "sun protection factor" (SPF); SPF represents the degree to which a sunscreen can protect the skin from sunburn. The higher the number, the better the protection. Consider a sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30.
- "Broad spectrum" protection -- sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays
- Water resistance -- sunscreen that stays on your skin longer, even if it gets wet; "water-resistant" does not mean "waterproof." Water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied as instructed on the label.
Tips for Applying Sunscreen
- Apply the recommended amount of sunscreen evenly to all uncovered skin, especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands, and feet. Most of us do not apply a heavy enough layer of sunscreen to get the amount of SPF the package claims.
- Check the label for the correct amount of time to apply sunscreen before you go out.
- If the label doesn't give a time, allow about 15 to 30 minutes before going into the sun.
- If you don't have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head, or wear a hat.
- Reapply to sun exposed skin at least every one to two hours. Read the label to see how often.
- Give babies and children extra care in the sun. Ask a doctor before applying sunscreen to children under age 6 months.
- Apply sunscreen to children older than age 6 months every time they go out.
Don't Forget the Eyes
Long hours on the beach or in the snow without adequate eye protection also can result in a short-term condition known as photokeratitis, or reversible sunburn of the cornea. This painful condition -- also known as "snow blindness" -- can cause temporary loss of vision.
- When buying sunglasses, look for a label that specifically offers 99%-100% UV protection. This assures that the glasses block both forms of UV radiation.
- Eyewear should be labeled "sunglasses." Be wary of dark or tinted eyewear sold as fashion accessories that may provide little or no protection from UV or visible light.
- Don't assume that you get more UV protection with pricier sunglasses or glasses with a darker tint.
- Be sure that your sunglasses don't distort colors and affect the recognition of traffic signals.
- Ask an eye care professional to test your sunglasses if you're not sure of their level of UV protection.
- People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses.
- Consider that light can still enter from the sides of sunglasses. Those that wrap all the way around the temples can help.
- Children should wear real sunglasses -- not toy sunglasses -- that indicate the UV protection level. Polycarbonate lenses are the most shatter-resistant.