Who turned on the lights?! The sun is finally making its long awaited appearance. Spending time outdoors has a host of benefits, from exercise to mental health to vitamin D, but being in the sun comes with a responsibility to protect the biggest organ on our bodies: our skin. Skin cancer is a largely preventable disease, and no Mediterranean tan is worth putting yourself at risk. Here are some sun safety guidelines and tips to keep you safe from the giant burning mass in the sky.
UV rays are the strongest between 11am and 3pm. Try to avoid being in direct sun between these hours, or (more realistically) take extra precautions if you're outside in the daytime.
Use the weather app to your advantage! Most weather apps include the UV index, which is a scale from 0 to 11+ that tells you how strong the sun's rays are. Even weak UV rays can have an effect on us, but definitely use sun protection for any UV index higher than 3.
The five pillars of sun protection are sunscreen, sunglasses, shade, long clothing, and a hat. Sunscreen helps prevent sun damage, but it is not a complete shield and should be used alongside these other sun safety measures.
Sunscreen comes in many varieties, but make sure you opt for a broad spectrum (meaning it protects from UVA and UVB rays), water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Sunscreen can protect our skin through chemical or physical means. Chemical sunscreen absorbs light and converts it to a small amount of heat so it doesn't reach the skin, whereas physical sunscreens have minerals like zinc that physically block the suns rays by scattering the light and diverting it away from the skin. Physical sunscreens are harder to blend and give you that classic, 80's opaque look, but they are gentler on the skin. Chemical sunscreens are more blendable and wear better under makeup, but they can be irritating to sensitive skin. Find a sunscreen that works for you — there are tons of great, wearable ones on the market.
You should be using one teaspoon of sunscreen per area of your body — that's one for your front, back, face/neck, each arm, and each leg. An SPF 30 sunscreen applied properly will do a better job protecting you than a thin, haphazard application of an SPF 50, so take your time with it! Don't forget the sensitive areas like your lips, ears, eyelids, and scalp.
Break out the cool guy shades! We may think of sunglasses as practical rather than protective, but overexposure to UV rays can damage the retina — irreparably if the eye cannot heal itself faster than the damage occurs. Some studies even suggest UV damage can lead to cataracts. So this is your excuse to buy those shades you've been wanting — call it sun safety with the added benefit of giving that model off-duty, 'no photos please' look.
If a golden tan is part of your identity, consider trading baking in the sun for a self tanner. There are a multitude of easy to apply, natural looking tanning lotions, mousses, creams, and sprays for every skin type and level of tan that won't give you wrinkles and sun damage.
You only get one body, and it's worth protecting! Keep yourself safe, drink plenty of water, and practice less shiddy sun safety this summer.
Remember to be less shiddy to others, our planet, and yourself.