Neighborhood NewsLifestyle & Wellness

Enjoy the Sunshine… Safely

By Jonathan Dickman, MD, PhD

West End Healthline

Summer is here and the days are long. Now is the time to enjoy the outdoors and go for walks, play sports, meet up with friends or whatever other activities you enjoy. It is always tempting to just throw on shorts and a T-shirt and go outside. Before you go outside, however, there are several items to consider to protect your skin and eyes while enjoying this beautiful weather. This is important to not only preventing painful sunburn, but also more serious future health problems. Here are some tricks to keeping your skin healthy:

When heading outside, think about how you will protect your eyes and skin, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.. Protecting your eyes can be as easy as putting on some glasses or contacts with ultraviolet (UV) protection. Most sunglasses have UV protections, but many reading glasses and contacts have this protection as well. Your skin can be protected by covering it with clothes, a wide brimmed hat and applying sunscreen to the remaining exposed skin. 

Many people ask what is the best type of sunscreen to purchase and the answer is the one you are willing to use! Some people prefer to use mineral (Zinc) based sunscreens while others feel that this is too difficult to rub into the skin. The sunscreens rated 30 SPF are usually sufficient for most outdoor conditions and higher SPF numbers are usually not needed as they provide minimal extra protection. Remember to reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours that you stay outside (more often if you go swimming). Covering the skin with clothes and sunscreen and wearing eye protection helps your skin stay strong in the hot summer sun!

If you are tired of people telling you to wear sunscreen all the time, you can minimize your need to use sunscreen by avoiding the sun during the middle of the day. Try to go outside when the sun is not as strong in the morning (before 8 a.m.) and later in the afternoon (after 4 p.m.). In addition, try to find areas of shade when you are outside as this protects your skin from harmful UV rays. 

Remember, however, that clouds in the sky blocking the sun is not the same as going in the shade. Up to 80% of UV rays will get through clouds, making sun protection still important in these situations. When you cannot find shade under a tree, using an umbrella can be helpful to create your own shade. Umbrellas can be used on both rainy and sunny days! Remember that while shade can decrease your need for applying sunscreen to your skin, you should still wear something such as sunglasses to protect your eyes. Avoiding the midday sun and taking advantage of shady areas can lower your need for applying sunscreen many times throughout the day!

Protecting your skin and eyes this summer will be important to staying healthy. While the long summer days entice us to head outside, take an extra five minutes to apply sunscreen, put on sunglasses and wear clothes that cover the skin. When possible, bring an umbrella or find some shade and try to avoid the midday sun. This will help your skin and eyes age gracefully while preventing cancer and cataracts! Enjoy the outdoors and plan ahead to stay healthy!

Dr. Dickman is a family physician at Allina Health United Family Physicians, 233 Grand Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55102, 651-241-5200.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *