Summertime is here, and with summertime come long days of fun in the sun. There is good evidence that just a few minutes outside and in the sunshine can reap multiple health benefits – including increased physical activity, absorption of Vitamin D and improvement in mood.
But time in the sun can quickly become a lot less fun – even dangerous – if you don’t take steps to protect your skin and provide for your overall health before going outside. Here are a few tips to keep your skin safe this summer:
If there’s only one thing you do to protect your skin, it should be to wear sunscreen every day. It takes only a few minutes for ultraviolet rays from the sun to harm unprotected skin, and is well known that overexposure to ultraviolet light can lead to sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer. Make a habit of applying a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to exposed areas every morning, whether you plan on spending time outside that day or not. Some wavelengths of UV light can even penetrate window glass!
Wear Protective Clothing
Also, when you do spend time outside, wear lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants to further protect your skin from the sun’s rays and heat. There are also many great options of sun protective clothing on the market, including several kinds of apparel with fabric with an elevated ultraviolet protective factor (UPF). These items will offer you extra protection for long days outside.
Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses!
Because your eyes can sustain sun damage as well, wear sunglasses labeled with 100% UV protection. Finish off your look with a wide-brimmed or floppy hat to not only protect your face and neck, but your scalp underneath your hair as well. And don’t forget your lips – pick up a lip balm with at least SPF 15 and apply it regularly throughout the day.
Review Your Medications
Remember to review your medications and skin care products. Some medications and face creams (such as those with retinol) increase your skin’s sensitivity to ultraviolet (UV) rays. A quick review of your medications with your primary care physician or dermatologist to figure out if anything you are taking will make you more sensitive to the sun is a great idea.
Drink Plenty of Water
Another healthy habit is to stay hydrated throughout the day, more so if you will be spending the day outside. Dehydration is common among older adults and can be potentially life threatening. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Remember that alcohol and caffeinated and carbonated beverages can have a diuretic effect on the body and make dehydration worse.
Moreover, staying hydrated is the best thing you can do to avoid heatstroke, a medical emergency that can arise suddenly and is often fatal if not properly and promptly treated. When you’re dehydrated, your body might not be able to produce sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, causing an increase in temperature to unsafe levels. Symptoms may include confusion, disorientation, excessive tiredness, headache, lethargy, nausea and a rapid pulse. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Heatstroke can also be avoided by staying indoors during the hottest parts of the day. Use this time of the day to catch up with friends or family or take an outing to somewhere with air conditioning, such as the movies, a museum or the mall. If you are going to be outside during this time, take frequent “shade breaks.”
Here’s to a great, sun-smart summer!
Ammar Ahmed, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist at the University Physicians Group, which is part of the Seton Family of Doctors. SetonFamilyOfDoctors.com