Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Protect Yourself from the Summer Sun

     As a young man, my dad spent as much time as possible playing basketball, football, tennis, golf, and any number of outdoor activities whenever he got the opportunity. Where my fair-skinned, red-headed, Irish dad went wrong was that he never wore sunscreen. Now, many years later, he has to visit the dermatologist every few months to check for skin cancer.

     In the 1960s when my dad was growing up, the dangers of sun exposure were not nearly as well known as they are today. That is why it is so alarming to see that today’s society places so much of an emphasis on tan skin. From young girls who use tanning beds to achieve that “golden” look before prom, to the “stars” of the reality show Jersey Shore who are famous for their daily regimen of GTL or gym, tan, laundry, to the recent story about the mom who allegedly took her six-year-old daughter to a tanning salon, the pressure to have perfectly bronzed skin is everywhere in pop culture.

     Repeated sun exposure is responsible for any number of consequences for our skin. Wrinkles, premature skin aging, skin cancer, and discoloration of the skin to name a few. The kicker is that much of our sun exposure occurs while we grow up. That is why it is so important for parents to educate their children about the dangers of sun exposure and provide them with adequate protection. Below are tips to help both you and your kids limit skin damage due to sun exposure:
  • Apply sunscreen whenever sun exposure is possible. Many of us only think to apply sunscreen when we are at the pool or the beach. However, the sun doesn't suddenly stop shining when we mow the lawn, work on the garden, or go to a friend’s house for a barbeque. 
  • Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside. This allows the sunscreen to form a protective layer before you begin your exposure. This is especially important if you are going to be swimming. I know I got sunburn more than once as a kid just because I jumped right in the pool immediately after I applied sunscreen. 
  • Don’t forget areas like lips, feet, ears, or the neck. They can be easy to miss and they can also be some of the most annoying places to get burned! 
  • Do not be stingy with sunscreen. Always apply it generously. 
  • Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Reapply even more often if you are sweating or swimming. 
  • Always use waterproof sunscreen when swimming. It won’t do you any good if it all washes off! 
  • Always use sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater. 
  • Wear hats that protect your face and neck from the sun. 

By: Shawn McNally

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