As summer temperatures start rising and long, sunny days return, who can resist spending more time outdoors?
If you’re going to be in the sun, you need to be safe.
A little knowledge will go a long way to protect you and your family from skin cancer, sunburn and wrinkles.
The sun emits ultra-violet (UV) rays which damage our skin. There are two types of UV rays that damage our skin: UVA and UVB.
The sun’s rays are strongest between 10am and 4pm, so if you plan to be outside at this time of day you definitely need to wear sunscreen.
Remember, all skin types can experience sunburn, so everyone should be applying sunscreen or sunblock before heading outdoors.
You should think of your sunblock as your summertime body lotion. Keep it in the bathroom and apply after bathing. This should be done at least 15 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors.
Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun's rays.
Sunscreens contain chemical ingredients like Parsol 1789 (avobenzone) which absorb UV radiation.They reduce sunburn and other skin damage.
Sunblocks contain ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide (sometimes labelled as Z-Cote) which reflect, scatter and bounce the sunlight off of your skin to protect it from UV rays.
They provide a high degree of protection against sunburn; preventing most tanning as well as burning by blocking the penetration of UV rays.
Sunscreens and sunblocks help prevent problems related to sun exposure, such as aging skin, dilated blood vessels and precancerous growths.
The type of sunscreen you choose is a matter of personal choice but should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or greater for all skin types.
Sunscreens and sunblocks are rated by the strength of their SPF.
SPF numbers can range from as low as 2 to as high as 100. These numbers refer to the product’s ability to screen or block out the sun’s burning rays.
Your doctor or pharmacist can help you determine what the right SPF is for you or your family members.
Remember that no matter how high the SPF of your sunblock; you have to re-apply especially after swimming or excessive sweating.
Children need special care to protect them from the sun, as young skin is delicate and is easily damaged by the sun.
Babies under six months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight at all times.
The following tips can help you keep your children sun safe this summer:
• Try to stay in the shade as much as possible, whether that’s under trees, umbrellas or canopies.
• Dress your children in close-weave cotton clothing.
• Put children in dry clothing after they’ve been in the water, since wet clothing stretches and can lose up to half of its UV protection.
• Buy good quality, wraparound sunglasses for children as soon as they are old enough to wear them.
• Have your children wear wide brims hats, to keep them shaded from the sun. Let them choose the hat when you go to buy it to encourage them to wear it.
• Use sunscreen wisely. Apply sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 before your children go outdoors, and reapply often. Don’t forget the ears, neck, nose and feet.
Try to use a product designed for a child’s sensitive skin.
Use waterproof or water resistant sunscreen or sunblock if your children are going to be in the water, and reapply it when they come out of the water.
Another important consideration when thinking about sun exposure is that many medications, both prescription and non-prescription, can increase your chance of burning.
A few herbal products, like St John’s Wort, also increase sensitivity to the sun.
It is always a good idea to speak to your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication to ensure that you know how to protect yourself.
If you do get too much sun and develop a sunburn, there are some things you can do to help ease the pain.
First, stay out of the sun until you are healed.
Sunburns can and will get worse with further exposure to the sun.
Drink lots of water, as the key to recovery is rehydrating your skin.
Apply a good quality aloe vera lotion or gel to your sunburned skin.
Another option is witch hazel lotion or gel, which is a good alternative to aloe vera.
If you experience chills, dizziness, fever, severe pain or vomiting, you should seek medical attention right away as this may be a sign of heat stroke.
This summer, keep your family sun safe. Lather on the sunscreen, cover up in cotton clothing, and stay hydrated.
You’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors for weeks to come.
• Stephanie Simons is head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire.