Posted by Katie Sack on Monday, June 16, 2014

We’re approaching some of the hottest months of the year, and after the freezing winter we had, this is a welcome change! With only limited months to enjoy beautiful weather here in New York, we all want to get the most out of it and spend as much time outside as possible. While getting some Vitamin D through natural sunlight is great for our health, the sun’s rays can also pose some major health problems. It’s extremely important to protect our bodies while having fun in the sun and to understand how its rays impact our bodies in order to properly protect ourselves!

  • Having darker-colored skin tones does not mean you’re less susceptible to sun damage! While lighter-skinned people have less melanin (the chemical that helps protects your skin from damage), any darkening of the skin or burning from sun exposure means that skin damage has been done.
  • The sun is typically at its strongest during the hours of 10:00am-4:00pm. Try to avoid being exposed to it during these hours by seeking shade while outside. If you will be in the sun, be sure to reapply sunscreen regularly and cover up with hats and other clothing.
  • Babies have thinner skin and therefore burn easier, but sunscreen should never be applied to children under 6 months. They need to be kept out of the sun at all times by clothing, hats, and umbrellas.
  • Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before exposure to the sun. Use it generously, and reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating. Remember that even when it’s overcast outside, sun damage can still occur and you should still use sun protection.
  • Don’t forget the eyes! Sun damage to the eyes can lead to a burned cornea and the development of cataracts later in life. Always wear sunglasses to protect your eyes, and check the label to make sure that the lenses protect against UVA and UVB rays – if they’re not labeled, don’t assume that they are protective!
  • Not all sunscreen is created equal!
    • The SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, indicates the level of protection against UVB rays, which are the biggest cause of sunburn. The higher the SPF, the greater the percentage of UVB rays that you are protected against – however, no sunscreen is 100% protective.
    • Look for sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum”. This means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
    • While no sunscreen is waterproof, it can be labeled “water resistant”. Even though your sunscreen may be water resistant, it should still be reapplied after swimming or sweating.
    • Check the expiration dates, and throw away sunscreen that is expired – it won’t work properly anymore.

Enjoy the sunshine and always follow these rules to avoid painful sunburns, early skin aging, long-term skin damage, and skin cancer!