It’s summertime! A cool splash in the pool, boogie boarding at the beach, sunbathing and weekend outings are prime times for sunburns. Before you head outdoors this summer, be sure to protect your skin against damaging sun, which can lead to melanoma.
Remember not all sunscreens are the same. Here are some tips to make sure you and your family can enjoy the outdoors while protecting yourself from the Florida sunshine:
• Look for “broad spectrum” protection. Sunscreens with this on the label protect against both UVA and UVB rays, which not only helps prevent sunburn but also skin cancers, wrinkles and premature aging.
• Use SPF 30 or higher. The higher the SPF number, the more protection you have from the sun. However, the higher you go, the smaller the difference. SPF 30 filters out about 97 percent of rays while SPF 50 filters about 98 percent and SPF 100 about 99 percent.
• Water resistant doesn’t mean waterproof. No sunscreens are waterproof or sweat proof. Look for water resistant sunscreens and check the label for how long they last (usually 40-80 minutes).
• Reapply at least every two hours. If you’re swimming and sweating, you should reapply more often. Don’t forget, when you towel yourself dry your sunscreen can rub off, so you should put more on.
• Use enough. Most adults need a full ounce of sunscreen to fully cover all exposed areas of skin. That’s enough to fill a shot glass or fully cover the palm of your cupped hand.
• Check expiration dates. Sunscreen loses its effectiveness when it starts to separate, which happens two to three years after it was made. Throw out any products that are expired or have changed texture or appearance.
• Let it soak in. Allow 15 minutes for your skin to absorb the product before going outside.
• Don’t forget your lips. Many people forget to protect the delicate skin on their lips when out in the sun. Be sure to apply sunscreen to your lips or use lip balm with SPF 30 protection.
While sunscreen allows us to safely enjoy the outdoors more, you shouldn’t rely on it alone. It’s important to cover up with clothing that protects you from the sun including a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
Also, take a break from the sun and enjoy the shade when possible—especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is directly overhead.
Catherine Robinson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She has a master’s degree in education and manages the Diabetes/Health Education department for Florida Health Care Plans.