The sun is dangerous. We all need it, and we all want more of it, but it poses a very real risk to your health if you’re under its blazing rays in excess. According to Cancer Council NSW, UV radiation is the main factor that causes skin cells to become cancer cells. Direct exposure, and boatloads of it, can increase your risk of getting cancer exponentially.
What’s more is that sunburns and frequent untreated sun exposure can welt your skin, leave you with scars, and make you develop blemishes and “sun spots”. Sun spots and blemishes are mostly harmless, but they can look unsightly and they are also indicative: if you have a lot of sun spots, it means you’re exposed to UV radiation enough to cause damage to your skin—frequently.
If you are concerned about preventing damage to your skin, avoiding cancer, or you simply want to keep your skin looking rather youthful, it’s important to protect it. Your skin is your largest organ; just as you’d pre-emptively try to protect your other organs, it’s smart to do the same with your skin.
Take Frequent Shade Breaks
Besides wearing thick garments, shade is the greatest protector against damage from the sun.
But when it’s summer and you’re trying to have some fun, you don’t want to stay indoors or in the shade. You want to soak up some rays and feel the heat on your skin. The pursuit of protecting your skin shouldn’t come with sacrifice. After all, you want to protect your skin so that you can enjoy life.
A worthwhile compromise here is to take frequent shade breaks. What this means is that if you spend half an hour in the sun, maybe spend ten to fifteen minutes in the shade afterwards. Switch back and forth and you’ll give your skin necessary time to repair any damage from the sun. You can also use these breaks as an opportunity to drink some water, reapply sunscreen, and maybe have a snack.
Apply Sunscreen Rated Above SPF 15
Sunscreens that have an SPF of 15 meet the minimum standards of the FDA. But authority figures in the field of UV radiation and dermatology all agree that this probably isn’t good enough.
It’s important to apply the right sunscreen. Some brands are dishonest about how much protection they truly offer, and some people also buy sunscreen that’s rated too low. If you have particularly sensitive skin or you’re in an unusually sunny environment, it’s important to use sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 50. More, if you can.
Keep in mind that a higher SPF doesn’t mean the sunscreen lasts longer. It just means that the cream is blocking more UV rays. You still need to re-apply the cream regularly to maximize coverage, and it’s still important to take shade breaks. No sunscreen blocks all UV rays. No matter how strong you go, you’re still absorbing UV radiation.
There are two kinds of UV radiation: UVB and UVA.
UVB rays cause sunburn and are the biggest culprits in skin cancer risk while out and about in the sun.
UVA rays are what cause more casual skin damage. UVA rays tan your skin, create blemishes, and cause wrinkles. To a lesser extent, they also still contribute to sunburn risk.
Many sunscreens only protect against UVB rays. You can increase your protection against the sun by purchasing sunscreen that is advertised as “broad spectrum”. This will tell you that the sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA rays.
While it is safer to avoid tanning, it may be the case that tanning is important to you. If it is, a broad spectrum sunscreen will hinder the tanning process. Go with a regular sunscreen if you want to keep doing it, but consider going with a stronger SPF as a compromise.
Use an Umbrella with Proper Sun-Blocking Fabric
Did you know that many umbrellas don’t protect you completely from the sun? It’s an unfortunate truth, and it’s one most people don’t know about. If you’re the kind of person who likes lounging underneath a patio umbrella, you’ll be displeased to know that it’s likely you weren’t blocking all the harmful UV rays.
This isn’t necessarily a big deal; after all, sun exposure is sun exposure, and many people do enjoy that. Just look at the people sunbathing at all hours of the day! But if you’re looking to keep your skin healthy, it becomes important to give your skin the chance to heal. You already know to take frequent shade breaks, so let’s take that a step further.
When you’re in the shade, make sure the shade is actually protecting you!
The best way to guarantee this is to use an umbrella that is built with proper sun-blocking fabric. The Skin Cancer Foundation lists several umbrellas that can protect you, and many of these can do so in style. There’s no reason to look drab while taking care of yourself. High-quality umbrellas like Sunbrella Umbrellas, available at iPatioUmbrella.com, that are properly rated can go a long way towards guaranteeing that your skin gets the chance to recuperate from a jaunt in the sun.
It would be more foolproof to wear thick clothes, but anyone who’s spent some time in the sun in the middle of summer knows this to be a poor choice. Temperature regulation is important, and running around is a bit of a task if you’re huffing and puffing because of your clothing. You can keep the layers off and still be safe if you use a properly rated umbrella.
Make Sure You’re in a Place with Lots of Natural Shade
Up to this point, you’ll have undoubtedly noticed a trend. It is true that the best way to protect your skin during the summer is by utilizing shade. There aren’t many foolproof ways of guaranteeing your skin remains unblemished and undamaged while maximizing sun exposure. We aren’t quite there yet.
So this means it’s good to be redundant. Specifically setting aside time to be in the shade can be a damper on the mood when you’re having fun. You likely have memories of childhood when you groaned after being told to come inside for a while just as the games were getting really good. And this still rings true today; shade is better than any other intervention or remedy, but it can be a drag if you’re constantly stopping the fun.
An alternative is to spend your time outdoors in a place that has a lot of natural shade. If you’ve seen the canopy of a forest, even by a clearing or field, you’ll have also seen that there’s a healthy pattern of sun and shade. In some ways, this can be a more effective means of minimizing damage from the sun.
Be warned: Constantly flitting from shade to sun from one moment to the next is helpful, but it isn’t total protection. You will still need to take shade breaks—just not as frequently as you ordinarily would if the sun exposure were perpetual instead of intermittent.
Sometimes this isn’t possible. For example, a beach will likely not have many areas that possess “natural shade”, but that’s where your umbrella comes into the mix. Otherwise, try to plan your events and engagements in places that offer a lot of natural protection. This is a great idea if you know you won’t remember to take as many shade breaks as you should, or if you simply just don’t want to take that many breaks.
Armed with these four tips, you’ll start enjoying a life with a significantly reduced number of sunburns. The Aloe Vera bottles you keep for treating your burns will fall into disuse, and you’ll start noticing that your skin looks great even after spending weeks in the sun.
Try to make protecting your skin as non-invasive and routine as you can. The biggest obstacle to proper care is often obligation and effort; if you feel as though you have to force yourself to take care of something, your incentive and motivation to follow through—consistently and regularly—will waver.
So make the choices that turn this affair into one that barely registers as a task. As mentioned above, if you know you’re not going to be able to take as many shade breaks as you should, plan your outdoor activities in a location where this is less important. If you know your skin is sensitive, use stronger sunscreen. If you know you’ll be in an area where there is no shade, get an sunbrella umbrella that will protect you from the sun.
Bake these choices in until they become a habit and you’ll be prepared to enjoy the summer months without feeling as though you’re cramping the vibe. It can be tough to be safe while having fun, and it can be a juggle sometimes. Keep your inclinations and preferences in mind as you move forward, and make the decisions that guarantee you’re protecting yourself as best you can no matter what.