It’s almost August already and the summer sun is helping many beautiful things in our garden to grow. Unlike a photosynthesizing plant, we have a job to do to protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays. And while many of us really only think about sun protection when we spend a day at the pool or the beach, sun exposure adds up day after day and happens every time you are in the sun.
Simply staying in the shade is one of the best ways to limit your UV exposure. If you’re going to be in the sun, the American Cancer Society’s “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!” is a cute catchphrase to help you remember the key steps you can take to protect yourself. I would add, “Tap!” your way in to The Village Doctor for our skin screening event with Stanford Dermatologists every September. You can read more of the American Cancer Society’s helpful advice on sun protection here. I’ve summarized a few of the main points below.
Slip on a shirt. Dark is generally more protective than light, dry better than wet, tightly woven fabric better than loosely woven fabric – if you can see through it, the UV rays can make their way through, too. Many companies now make sun-protective clothing – look for a label listing the UV protection factor (UPF) value – the higher the UPF, the higher the protection from UV rays.
Slop on sunscreen. We recommend sunscreen with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher. Apply very liberally – people often do not apply enough sunscreen, so they get less actual protection. Applying every 2 hours is needed to maintain protection, and remember to use water resistant sunscreen when needed and to re-apply after getting out of the water and drying off. Check the expiration date to be sure it’s still effective.
Slap on a hat. A 2 to 3-inch brim is ideal to protect the ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp from the sun. A dark, non-reflective underside of the brim can also help to lower the amount of UV rays reaching the face. Straw hats are not as protective as hats made of tightly woven fabric.
Wrap on sunglasses. Search for a pair with a label that says it blocks 99 to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. If it says “UV absorption up to 400nm” or “Meets ANSI UV requirements” it is probably safe. If it doesn’t have a label, you can’t assume it has any UV protection.
Tap your way in to The Village Doctor for our skin screening event with Stanford Dermatology this September! Stay tuned for more information on date and time, coming soon. (July 2018)
Dr. Jennifer Abrams