When the weather gets warmer, it may be tempting to lie out in the sun. Sun exposure can cause immediate and future harm, though, and the Cancer Council¹ reports that the vast majority of skin cancers are caused by the UV radiation of sunlight.
Sun exposure also leads to sunburn, premature skin aging, and eye damage. To enjoy the summer sunlight without hurting your body, it’s essential to protect your skin with the right tools. Here are six ways to prevent sun damage this summer.
1. Stay in the Shade
If you spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, try to stay in the shade as much as possible. The more you can avoid being in direct sunlight, the healthier your skin will be. If you can’t find natural shade, you can use an umbrella to shield yourself from the sun.
According to the American Skin Association², the sun’s rays are at their most dangerous between 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. It’s especially important to stay out of the direct sunlight during this time. You can also use the “shadow test” to determine how harmful the sun is at any given moment. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s UV rays are intense enough to cause a severe sunburn.
2. Always Use Sunscreen
Sunscreen is your best tool for protecting your skin from the sun. Even if the sun is blocked by clouds, you should apply sunscreen every time you go outside. About 80 percent of UV rays pass through clouds, CNN³ writes, so it’s easy to get sunburned on overcast days.
You may need to apply sunscreen even if you don’t plan on going outside. If you drive often or spend time at work or home near a window, you can be exposed to the sun’s harmful rays. Glass filters out UVB rays, but UVA rays can still affect your skin through a window.
It’s also important to apply sunscreen properly. If you choose the wrong sunscreen, apply too little, or forget to reapply, your skin won’t be protected from the sun. Your sunscreen should be water-resistant and should have an SPF of at least 30, writes the American Academy of Dermatology⁴.
It takes about 15 minutes for the sunscreen to be absorbed by your skin, so you should apply it before you go outside. Make sure to thoroughly cover all of your exposed skin and reapply the sunscreen at least once every two hours.
3. Don’t Forget About Your Lips
The lips are one of the most vulnerable parts of the body to sun damage, but most people forget to protect their lips from the sun. One survey, MedicalDaily⁵ reports, found only 37 percent of people who properly apply sunscreen use lip protection. Unlike the rest of your skin, lips don’t have any melanin, so they’re especially susceptible to UV damage.
The easiest way to shield your lips from the sun is to wear a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30. You should apply an SPF lip balm even on cloudy days, and you should reapply it every two hours. Products made from a base of beeswax, paraffin, and petroleum jelly tend to be the best for sun protection because they seal the moisture into your lips.
4. Wear Protective Clothing
Even the most powerful sunscreen isn’t always enough to shield your skin from UV rays. When you spend a long time in the direct sunlight, you should consider wearing sun-safe clothing. UV rays can reach your skin through tiny holes in fabric, so the best clothes for sun protection are tight-knit. Heavier fabrics like denim provide better sun protection than lighter materials like silk, but it may be uncomfortable to wear heavy clothing in the summer heat.
Some fabric dyes absorb UV rays, which will reduce your exposure. Darker colors are typically better than lighter colors at absorbing UV rays, and bright and vivid colors also absorb a substantial amount of rays.
5. Cover Your Head
Even if you have a full head of hair, your neck and scalp can still get sun damage. Your scalp is the highest point on your body, so it’s particularly vulnerable to UV damage, and one of the most harmful forms of melanoma occurs on the scalp according to Today⁶.
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is the best way to cover up your head and neck, but you can also find sunscreen that’s specially designed to protect your scalp. The Skin Cancer Foundation gives seals of recommendation to hats they deem appropriate for sun protection.
Protect Your Skin for a Better Tomorrow
As the weather gets warmer and you spend more time outdoors, it’s easy to forget about skincare. Skin protection is an important part of your overall health, though, and neglecting your skin can lead to painful sunburns, wrinkles, and cancer. To stay safe and healthy, pay close attention to your sun exposure in the summer, and take the time and care to research the best sun protection tools.