With summer lurking just around the corner for some, here in the Tampa Bay area and all across Florida, the summer here starts earlier than June 20th. The sun is so strong down here that you really need to consider using sunscreen year round. Using sunscreen every day, all day is the way to go. But it isn’t just about using sunscreen, it’s also about making sure that your eyes and head is protected from the sun’s UV rays.
Making sure to wear sunglasses that block both UVB & UVA rays is the option to go with when protecting your eyes and wearing a wide brimmed hat will also protect your head as well as your ears and the back of your neck.
Here are some guidelines from Florida Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery:
- Choosing a sunscreen: Look for one that provides “broad spectrum” protection (blocking both UVA and UVB rays), water resistance and a minimum SPF of 30.
- Choosing sunscreen for infants: Look for the ingredients zinc and/or titanium dioxide.
- When to toss: Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date or is over two years old.
- Use your noggin: The best combination for protecting your head is sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Often-neglected areas are the ears, back of the neck, lips and scalp at the part in the hair.
- Pick the right shades: Look for sunglasses that are described as blocking 99% or 100% of UVA and UVB, or as providing UV absorption up to 400 nm.
- Cover up: Wear tightly woven darker clothing in the sun, as it reflects more UV rays, and look for fabrics made of nylon or Dacron, which are more protective than cotton.
- Beware reflections: Water, sand and even porch decks can reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun.
- Check your shadow: The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.
- Be a role model: Teach your children good habits for sun protection. Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
- African-Americans and Hispanics need protection too: People with naturally darker skin aren’t immune to the effects of the sun and can still burn.
- Apply and reapply: Whatever type of sunscreen you prefer (gel, cream or sprays are all good choices), be sure to reapply every two to three hours during times of prolonged exposure.
All of these are a good rule of thumb to follow whether you are in St. Petersburg to Clearwater Beach to Tarpon Springs to Tampa to Lakeland or anywhere in the U.S. Using sunscreen is being preventive and proactive against skin cancer. Here are some other tips from Water’s Edge Dermatology:
- Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.
- Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, wearing protective clothing, and applying sunscreen.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand because they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Summing all this up:
- Make sure to use Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
- Protect children from the sun by playing in the shade, having them wear protective clothing and applying sunscreen.
- Use caution near water, snow, and sand. The sun reflects off of these and can increase chances of having a sun burn.
- Reapply sunscreen every few hours when swimming or sweating.
- And finally, wear sunglasses that block out UVB & UVA rays as well as wearing a broad rimmed hat to protect your scalp, ears, and the back of your neck.
This may sound silly, but even if you’re in the car running errands, make sure to use sunscreen. The sun is blaring through the windows and you can easily burn this way. Using sunscreen isn’t just for the beach, it’s for everyday use.