You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
Whenever possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. This provides excellent protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colours are more protective than lighter colours. Some clothing comes with information on its so-called ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).
Ideally, wear a hat with a broad brim all which directly shades your face, ears, and the back of the neck. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through; tight weaves are better blockers of ultraviolet light. Baseball caps protect only a small area of the upper forehead; they are basically otherwise useless.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts and possibly macular degeneration. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVBare recommended. Most sunglasses offer UV protection today, but please ask your optician about this important before buying any sunglasses.
Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF between 30 and 45 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days (The ingredients in a sunscreen are important – chemical based sunscreen with ingredients such as octinoxate, avobezone, octocrylene break down after a relatively brief amount of sun exposure and these ingredients are absorbed through the skin into the body. Zinc and titanium based preparations are physical sunscreens which do not break down with sun exposure and are not absorbed into the body). Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back or use a spatula from your kitchen. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.
Sunscreen wears off although physical sunscreens (zinc, titanium and silica preparations last longer). Reapply if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
More on Sunscreens
Why zinc oxide?
• Zinc oxide is a natural mineral that is safe even on the most sensitive skin, including post-procedure skin and even that of children 6 months or older. Zinc oxide blocks UVB (sun burn burn) and UVA (aging) rays that have been linked to photoaging and skin cancer.
• The active ingredient is ultrafine-particulate, naturally sourced zinc oxide. Unlike older generations of zinc-based sunscreens, Immuvex is transparent, does not have a “thick” consistency and does not cause acne bumps and it is hypoallergenic. Immuvex is sensitivity-free, paraben-free and fragrance free. It is researched, engineered and formulated by Dermatology and Laboratory Medicine.
What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?
• Sunscreens have either “physical” or chemical (or, sometimes both) active ingredients. Physical agents like zinc or titanium oxide reflect or scatter ultraviolet (UV) light (these were formerly referred to as “UV blockers”). Ultraviolet light does not “break down” zinc. Chemical agents like (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate etc) absorb UV radiation, and ultimately break down. They are not sweat proof nor are they waterproof. The safety of chemical sunscreen agents has not been definitively established. Also, chemical sunscreens cause skin allergy fairly commonly.
What is the difference between UVA and UVB?
• There are two types of ultraviolet light – UVA and UVB. UVB has been referred to as the “sunburn wavelength” whereas UVA causes brown spots (“liver spots”), skin thinning, broken capillaries and premature aging. UVA does not typically cause sunburn. Both UVA and UVB cause skin cancer.
What does SPF mean?
• SPF (“sun protection factor”) reflects the sunburn protection of a sunscreen. Remember, sunburn is a reflection of UVB, not UVA wavelenghts. It reflects only UVB filtration. This is important to know about as UVB represents only 5% of ultraviolet light; 95% of ultraviolet light is in the UVA spectrum. Therefore, a high SPF, non-zinc based sunscreen may not block out a significant proportion of cancer causing ultraviolet light.
Does a high SPF number mean that the sunscreen is better?
• No. Once the SPF number is over 40, there is no significant extra filtration of ultraviolet light.
What does broad spectrum mean?
• Broad spectrum refers to the ability for a sunscreen to filter out UVB and UVA rays.
Are tanning beds safe?
• UV from tanning beds is not safe. This is also classified as a type I carcinogen by the World Health Organization. The tiresome tanning bed industry does much to obfuscate this fact. Pre-vacation tanning is not safe and, perhaps surprisingly, is NOT protective against sunburn.