Sun Safety Tips

sun hat sunscreen and sun glasses in sand

Summer is in full swing! Warm, sunny days only mean one thing: it’s time to get out of the house and into the sunshine.  No matter what you’re doing outside – whether it’s relaxing by the water, camping, playing outdoor games or sports, or just hanging out in the backyard – it’s important that you protect your skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Both UVA and UVB rays can be harmful to your skin. While UVB rays are the main cause of sunburns, overexposure to UVA rays may cause skin cancer.

Staying sun safe couldn’t be easier. Use these tips to keep your skin healthy this summer.

Pick the right sunscreen. Not all sunscreen is created equally. Make sure yours is a “broad spectrum” sunscreen, which protects from both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.

  • People who have fair skin should use SPF 30 or higher.
  • Kids and babies have thinner skin than adults, so buy sunscreen that is made especially for them. These will usually have SPFs between 30 and 50.
  • If you’re going to the beach or pool, or you’re doing things that could cause you to sweat, you’ll also want to choose sunscreen that is waterproof.
  • Be sure to test new sunscreen on a patch of skin to see if it causes rashes, stinging, or an allergic reaction. You may need to try a few different kinds before you find one you like.

Know how to use it. Sun can begin to damage your skin after 15 minutes of exposure, so put on your first layer before heading outside. In general, you’ll need to put on more sunscreen every two hours, and sooner if you’ve been swimming or sweating. Waterproof sunscreens will say on the label how long they stay water resistant. Set a timer on your watch or phone as a reminder to reapply.

No days off. You still need to wear sunscreen on cloudy or overcast days. Clouds don’t cover up UV rays, and they can reflect off of the ground. Even though you can’t see the sun, your skin can still be damaged.

Get some shade. The sun is most intense between 10 am and 4 pm, so limit your exposure during this time. Make a point to take shade breaks. You’ll probably be more than ready to get out of the heat! Some of our favorite ideas: sit under an umbrella or a shady tree, head inside for lunch, or go see a movie.

Think outside the bottle. Of sunscreen, that is! While using sunscreen correctly is the gold standard, you can take protection to the next level by wearing:

  • Sunglasses with UV protection
  • Wide brimmed hats
  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants (as much as is comfortable, of course – you don’t want to overheat)
  • Lip balms and makeup with SPF 15 or higher

Stay cool. Being safe in the sun isn’t just about protecting your skin. You need to be mindful about heat exhaustion, too. Summers in Virginia are often hot and humid, which makes it a lot harder for your body to cool itself down. Making sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids and heading indoors to cool down when you need to. Know the signs of heat exhaustion – including dizziness, nausea, and muscle cramps – and take action if you or someone with you is showing them.

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