Seven Tips to Protect You from UV Rays

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again and again: I LOVE SUMMER! There’s nothing better than feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, but as an educated healthcare professional, I can’t (in good conscious) be outside without protecting myself from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Here are a few methods to help protect against the sun, so you can enjoy the weather, guilt free!


Learn about the benefits of sunlight and the many dangers that lurk within the sun’s rays, by reading my previous post on: The Benefits & Dangers of the Summer Sun


SUNSCREEN

The most obvious and common solution is our beloved sunscreen! In my opinion, it is the most efficient solution. You may have noticed the letters “SPF” on sunscreen bottles along with a number. Most people know that SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor, however there is a misconception that the number associated with SPF is a indicator of how much protection you are getting. SPF 15 DOES NOT equate to 15% protection. That’s right, the numbers on sunscreen are not a literal percentage (from 1-100) that indicates how much sun the sunscreen is protecting you from. 

The way sunscreen works in protecting you is considered “nonlinear”. So, SPF 15 does not equate to 15% protection. Instead it equates to about 93% protection. From there on out SPF 30 = 97%, SPF 50 = 98% and SPF 100 = 99%. Looking at these numbers, it’s clear that SPF 15 or more is the key. However, I usually stick with SPF 15 or 30, anything above that is just about the same.

When I pick out my sunscreen product, I always pick a lotion (I hate the sprays because I don’t think I get enough) and always make sure that it is water-based or oil-free. That is because I apply it to my face and I already have oily prone skin, so if the sunscreen is water based then it won’t cause breakouts. I also prefer sport or waterproof sunscreen because then it’s designed to last longer (…for the most part. Always read the bottle to make sure).

Always reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours while outside, and reapply after swimming or high intense exercise that causes you to sweat a lot. Even if your sunscreen is waterproof, it isn’t invincible and will wash off sooner or later. So, don’t be afraid to lather it up. You may think you are over lathering, but a majority of people don’t put on enough sunscreen.

COVER UP

Another option, although it tends to be less favorable, is to cover up. Put on a light jacket, long sleeve shirt or pants. Reduce the amount of skin that is exposed to sunlight. I know what you’re thinking, “You want me to wear long sleeves in the summer?!” I get it, this isn’t my favorite option to protect myself from the sun either. About the only pants I own are jeans and it is too hot to be sitting in the sun with jeans on! However, wearing a thin long sleeve shirt when outside it not as excruciating as you’d think, I tend to opt for this option time to time rather than covering myself head to toe.

I do make sure to wear sunglasses frequently. Your eyes are very sensitive and although you may not be looking directly at the sun, they are still affected by the UV rays. Also, the skin around your eyes is very thin and sensitive compared to the rest of your body, making it more prone to damage. This area is more susceptible to wrinkle and sun spots.

Once on vacation, my aunt made sure that every single one of the kids had sunglasses on whenever we went outside. I’ll never forget what she said. My aunt fumbled through her purse handing each one of us a different style of sunglasses and said, “Tan lines may be annoying, but they will go away. The wrinkles from the sun… THOSE will stay forever.” Since that day, I’ve always made sure I had a pair of sunglasses within reach.

SHADE

This tip speaks for itself, protect yourself from harmful UV rays simply by not being under the UV rays! Common sense right? But don’t be fooled, you could still be exposed. Sunlight reflecting off of concrete, water, sand, and (for my northern readers) snow still contain those harmful UV rays. So, just because you’re in the shade, doesn’t mean you’re out of harm’s way. 

This tip also applies for those pesky cloudy days. As much as 80% of the sun’s UV rays can slip through the clouds. It may sound silly, but you should consider putting on the sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for a long time even when there is overcast.

KEEP AN EYE ON THE TIME

The sunlight’s UV rays are most dangerous between 10am and 4pm. This is when the sun is the highest in the sky and UV light is strongest. So, rearrange your schedule if you can so you aren’t outside and under the sun during the entire 6 hour time frame. When I was a kid, my parents would take us to the pool closer to 1 or 2 in the afternoon. It was always less crowded and I had more energy because I wasn’t in the heat all day. Now that I’m older and my fiancé and I are early birds, we like to go outside before lunch. That way we are only in the sun during those first couple hours of the prime UV danger zone. Plus, in the morning it is much cooler, by the afternoon/evening the heat has settled and it’s uncomfortably hot outside.

BE PROACTIVE

Even though I do whatever I can to limit my risk of being harmed by the UV rays, I still take offensive action with my skin care. That means you need to stay hydrated! Roughly 60% of the human adult body is entirely made of water. You see what happens to a puddle in the middle of a hot summer day, your body is no different. Especially if you are active, your body is losing water constantly under the sun. You need to replenish often which means drinking plenty of water throughout the day. It does not count when you “forget” to drink water all day and then chug 5 glasses with dinner. The body needs to be steadily refreshed with water, so take a water bottle and make sure you get your 8-12 glasses (more than 12 if you’re active in the heat).

ALOE VERA

Along with staying hydrated, I also like to apply plenty of aloe vera during the summer. Aloe vera has this reputation to only be used for sunburns. That is not the case, I still use it all summer because it has a lot of antioxidant and antimicrobial benefits that can help heal and protect your skin, even if you don’t have the painfully obvious sunburns.

POWER IN NUMBERS

Dermatologists and skin experts alike can agree that choosing more than one method is the best option. There is not one right answer, but rather a combination of answers that will best help you protect yourself from the UV rays. Every person is different and you may prefer one method over another. So, try different things!


Check out any of these following sites for more information on how to protect yourself from the dangerous UV rays!

CDC – Skin Basics

Mayo Clinic – Skin Protection

American Academy of Dermatology

World Health Organization – Sun Protection


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