Sun Safety: Special Considerations & Additional Thoughts

sunburnedThe article Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure provided tips for enjoying the sun and keeping protected from its harmful rays at the same time. Today’s post provides information regarding unique situations and elements to consider for complete sun safety.

Special Considerations

Various factors influence the severity of sun damage. Be sure to keep the following special considerations in mind with regard to sun exposure.

AGEWhile everyone needs to use caution with sun exposure, children and the elderly need additional consideration.

Children and the elderly need to stay covered as much as possible and to consistently wear sunscreen.

SKINFirst consider skin complexion. According to the American Cancer Society, while any skin shade can be damaged by the sun, individuals with lighter skin are especially at risk.

Other factors relating to the skin that increase the possibility of severe sun damage and cancer include:

  • Having had skin cancer previously
  • Having a family history of skin cancer
  • Having lots of moles, having freckles and burning before tanning.

Protection in these situations is the same as with the elderly and children, cover up and wear sunscreen.

INSECT REPELLENTS AND MAKEUPBoth can decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen. Experts at the American Cancer Society recommend putting sunscreen on before applying makeup and/or insect repellent. Sunscreen needs to be right next to the skin to be most effective.

In addition, insect repellent can reduce the SPF of sunscreen by up to 1/3, so increase the SPF and reapply sunscreen more often when pairing with insect repellent.

LOCATION Because the sun is stronger near the equator, getting sunburned happens more quickly. Also, the sun is more intense in high altitudes with thinner air and thinner cloud cover. So don’t forget to reapply sunscreen often and to wear a higher SPF in warmer and higher locations.

Additional Thoughts

Some less-thought-of aspects regarding sun exposure involve the UV Index, Vitamin D and alternative tanning methods.

UV INDEX According to the US EPA, “the UV index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways to prevent sun overexposure.” It helps know when to avoid being in the sun and when being outside is safer. The National Weather Service and EPA issues the UV Index forecast daily to help plan outdoor activities.

VITAMIN D Most people realize we get Vitamin D from being in the sun. However, some sources believe that getting Vitamin D safely means getting it “from your diet or vitamin supplements rather than from sun exposure.” Other sources, such as The Archives of Internal Medicine, state that, “summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient.” And most people will admit that being in the sun for a little bit each day helps elevate mood, which Vitamin D is noted to be associated with doing. If you seek sun exposure to increase Vitamin D levels, do so minimally.

ALTERNATIVE TANNINGThe American Cancer Society notes that while tanning lotions and pills claim to give a tan without sun exposure, users should proceed with caution. Some may be safe and effective, others may not work, and still others could be harmful. Do your research on products before using.

With certainty, though, all scientific sources indicate the danger of tanning beds. The EPA states that everyone should avoid tanning beds because “UV light from tanning beds… causes skin cancer and wrinkling.” In addition, the American Cancer Society reports that “people who use tanning beds are more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than never users, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota.”

Combine the tips given in Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure with the special considerations and additional thoughts in this article to ensure receiving the best possible protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

Sun Safety: What to Do Before, During & After Sun Exposure

Sun Safety SunscreenThe American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and that more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed yearly, more than all other cancer types combined.

Not only are most skin cancers preventable, the sun damages more than just the skin. Fortunately, many options exist for enjoying the sun and being protected from its harmful rays. Apply these tips to help you enjoy the sun, be safe from harmful UV rays, and recover from sun damage.

Before Sun Exposure

  • Avoid Sunburn – Sunburn and tanning are both just short-term effects of sun damage. Long-term effects include premature skin aging, loss of skin elasticity, dark patches, pre-cancer and cancer. Avoid sunburn and tanning whenever possible.
  • Apply Sunscreen - While sunscreen does provide protection from the sun, it does not provide 100% protection against UV rays. To get the full benefit of sunscreen, first read labels before buying to ensure choosing the best protection possible. Second, understand what the numbers on the bottle mean. Third, note the expiration date on the sunscreen and act accordingly. Finally, apply sunscreen liberally. Approximately a palmful provides adequate protection, and follow product directions for reapplication.
  • Check Medications - Many medications increase sun sensitivity and burning rate. A doctor or pharmacist can tell you if your medication makes you more susceptible to sun damage, but know that antibiotics and acne medications are common culprits.

During Sun Exposure

  • Wear Protective Clothing – Cover as much skin as possible, especially the longer you are in the sun. Some clothing now comes with sun protection factor, but any clothing you can’t see the sun through blocks at least some of the harmful rays. There are even products you can buy that are used in washing machines to add UV protection to clothing.
  • Wear a Hat - Hats with 2-3” brims all the way around provide sun protection to the head and neck. While most people wear either a baseball cap or a straw hat, keep their limitations in mind. A baseball cap, for instance, does not protect the neck and ears, and straw hats tend to have loose weaves that let sunlight through to skin.
  • Wear Sunglasses - Sunglasses that block UV rays not only protect eyes from sun damage, they also protect areas around the eyes. Ideal sunglasses should block 99-100% of UV rays. Dark sunglasses aren’t naturally better because the sun protection comes from an invisible coating applied to lenses, and large-framed and wrap-around sunglasses provide the most comprehensive protection. Finally, realize that a sunglasses price doesn’t predict its ability to protect eyes. In fact, a wide range of sunglasses in various prices and features all protect eyes from the sun. Simply make sure sunglasses are labeled as blocking 99-100% of UV rays.
  • Seek Shade - When the sun’s rays are at their strongest, no amount of sunscreen or clothing provides total protection against sun damage. At times, the best protection is seeking shade. Remember that when you can’t see your shadow, the sun is at its strongest.

Sunburn Care

Sometimes, even though we do our best to prevent sunburn something gets missed or forgotten. The result: painful sunburn. When this happens, take action to alleviate the discomfort and aid healing. Common methods include taking a cool bath, applying aloe vera gel, taking anti-inflammatory medication and applying moisturizing cream. If sunburn is severe enough for blisters to develop, see your doctor.

Taking the proper precautions goes a long way in preventing sunburn as well as its short and long-term effects. The post “Sun Safety: Special Considerations & Additional Thoughts” will bring this discussion of sun safety full circle by discussing some unique situations and elements that need considered in order to truly be safe in the sun.