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Sun Safety: Save Your Skin

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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

Sunlight reflecting off snow, sand, or water further increases exposure to UV radiation, increasing your risk of developing eye problems such as cataracts. The right sunglasses can protect your 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.