Protecting yourself from the sun is one of the best things you can do to prevent a sunburn, wrinkles and age spots and of course, skin cancer, which affects 5 million people every year.
Sure, you already know that using sunscreen is a good idea, but chances are, there are sun protection mistakes you're making that could burn you. Here, read on for seven of the most common misconceptions about the sun, plus some simple strategies to stay protected.
Myth #1: The indoors are safe. Just because you work in an office or spend most of your time indoors, you're not immune to the sun's rays. In fact, research shows that people who are exposed to the sun through glass have significant sun damage.
Even though your car's windshield blocks out ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and is treated to block out ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, the side and rear windows are not, so you could be exposed to the sun without even realizing it.
So whether you're on the open road or just running errands, always wear sunscreen.
Myth #2: Any sunscreen will do. A good sunscreen doesn't have to be expensive, but it should meet certain standards.
Look for waterproof sunscreen that touts "broad spectrum UVA/UVB," has an SPF of 30 or more, and carries the Skin Cancer Foundation seal.
A good rule of thumb: the higher the number, the more protection. For example, an SPF 15 protects you from 93 percent of UVB rays while an SPF 30 filters 97 percent. If you have a family history of skin cancer or have had melanoma yourself, get the highest SPF you can find.
Myth #3: Sunscreen is all you need. Aside from sunscreen, you should also invest in a good pair of wide, wraparound sunglasses that block out 100 percent of UV rays. If you'll be near the water, a polarized pair will reduce the sun's effects from the glare. A wide-brimmed hat and sun protective clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Sun Protecting Factor) can help to block out the sun as well.
Myth #4: Applying it once is enough. Not only should you use sunscreen but you need to use it correctly. Use an ounce, or about a shot glass's worth, on all sun-exposed areas of your body, including areas where your clothing shifts and can leave you unprotected. Add an extra layer on your chest where the skin is thinner and damage is more likely. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading out and then re-apply every 2 hours - more frequently if you're sweating or swimming.
Myth #5: You don’t need protection on cloudy days. Even if the sun isn't shining brightly, sunscreen is necessary on overcast, cloudy and rainy days too. Before you head out for the day, check the EPA’s website for the UV index and sun protection recommendations. Myth #6: Sitting in the shade is a safe bet.
Since the sun's rays can be reflected off the golf course, sand, pavement and the water, you need to apply sunscreen the same way you would if you were in direct sunlight. The same goes if you're lounging under an umbrella or in the shade most of the day.
Myth #7: A tan isn't a burn. Sure, you love that healthy glow you get when you tan, but tanning is just as dangerous as burning. Sun exposure accumulates over time so with each tan, you create more sun damage and increase your risk for damaged skin and cancers.
By J. Dan Morris, M.D.
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