Take a walk out on the pool deck on a hot August day. Around this time of year, we see the short-term effects of sun exposure. Lots of tans, a handful of burns, and a select few folks who have done what they can to protect again the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun. Here’s what we know about sun protection and what you can do to keep your team informed and safe.
Skin Cancer Rates in America – We’ll start with a scary stat. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Some forms of skin cancer are dangerous and fast moving, like melanoma. If your sun protection techniques to-date have not been up to par you may want to talk to a dermatologist. They can suggest monitoring changes in your skin. When caught early skin cancer cells are readily treatable.
UVA vs UVB? – Let us simplify. UVA … think A for aging. UVB … think B for burn. Both are causing genetic damage and both contribute to a higher propensity for long term issues including skin cancer and advanced aging of the skin.
How to Pick a Sunscreen – Your first consideration in your fight against the sun should be sunscreen. Not all sunscreens are created equal. The American Academy of Dermatology says you need to look for three things in your sunscreen.
- Broad Spectrum – This means your sunscreen protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
- SPF 30 or Higher – An SPF of this value provides excellent protection.
- Water Resistant – Although sunscreens are not waterproof, sunscreens labeled “water resistant” or “very water resistant” have proved through testing that they will hold up better in demanding summer conditions.
How to Pick a Sunscreen, Part 2 – Lotions, gels, sticks and sprays are all FDA approved and work well, if applied in appropriate amounts. Ultimately, you should pick a sunscreen that you’re inclined to wear. If you prefer a specific scent, applicator or brand, use it! If your preferred sunscreen meets the above criteria, you’re in good shape.
How to Wear Sunscreen – Now that you’ve picked a good sunscreen it’s time to put it on… thoroughly. Most skin protection advocates agree that an adult should be applying about one ounce of sunscreen to their body during each application. Unfortunately, studies show that the general sun-prone public typically only apply one-quarter to one-half that amount. For visualization purposes consider filling a one ounce shot glass.
Appropriate coverage becomes tricky when you’re using a spray sunscreen. Your typical six-ounce sunscreen spray bottle shouldn’t last you more than a week, especially considering reapplication techniques detailed below.
How to Wear Sunscreen, Part 2 – Now that you’ve picked your sunscreen and put it on… the clock is ticking. You’re going to have to reapply your sunscreen regularly. If you’re like most people, this is an issue. Following the product recommendations and scientifically supported testing, you should be reapplying your sunscreen every two hours, or every time you get wet or sweaty.
Beyond Sunscreen – Although we’re conditioned to associate sun protection with sunscreen, there are many different options available. Limit your teams sun exposure with shade structures (think UV umbrellas for lifeguards) and protective UPF clothing – both of which can greatly reduce harmful UV light exposure.
Does regular clothing do the trick? Sometimes. Depending on color, fabric and density, clothing may have some reductive properties when it comes to UV light, but they vary greatly. Approved and tested clothing, shade structures and sunglasses should be provided for your team to ensure appropriate protection.
The Base Tan Myth – You’ve heard it before. Friends with a deep base tan tell you they’re conditioned to be in the sun, that their base offers the protection they need. Science tell us differently. A tan is your body’s way of showing it’s under attack. A base tan is a natural defense mechanism that only provides a tiny fraction of the protection afforded by sun screen – in the range of 1-3 SPF.
The Cloudy Day Myth – Think you’re ok sans-sunscreen on a cloudy day? Think again. Although sun light is filtered out by clouds, harmful UV rays are still getting through. When working outside, sunscreen should always be applied.
The Sunscreen Risk Myth – Scientific evidence supports that the protective effects of using sunscreen greatly outweigh any unproven claims of the toxicity of sunscreen or any associated human health hazards associated with its ingredients. Bottom line – you’re much better off with sunscreen than without it.