With spring here sunlight each day will increase, and the days will become longer. It is important, especially in Texas, to remember to take precautions for skin safety. The three main ways to protect your skin during those long hot days in the Texas heat are: seeking shade, applying sunscreen and wearing sun protective clothing.
It is essential to remember that when performing any outdoor activity that seeking shade is important. If you need to work outside, try to work underneath a tree that provides cover against the sun. Plan outdoor trips that provide plenty of shade. If you must be out in the sun without shade, try to limit this time and find breaks in your day to take shade against the sun.
The second way to protect your skin from the sun is to apply sunscreen. There are two different types of sunscreens: physical and chemical. Physical sunscreens act as a shield against the sun’s UV rays. The typical active ingredients for physical sunscreens include zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Chemical sunscreens act by absorbing the high energy UV rays from the sun. Typical active ingredients include oxybenzone and avobenzone. For those with more sensitive skin, physical sunscreens may be preferred. Sunscreens are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means that they undergo vigorous inspection prior to release on the market. It is recommended to use a sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher and that is water resistant. SPF 30 sunscreens block up to 97% of UV rays from the sun. SPF 50 and greater sunscreens can block slightly more UV rays than SPF 30 sunscreens but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s UV rays. It also important to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, regardless of what SPF sunscreen you use.
Lastly, to protect yourself from the sun, it is important to cover up as much of your skin with clothing as possible. Try to select long sleeved shirts and pants. Avoid lighter colored clothing and try to choose darker colored clothing. If possible, wear a hat that protects not only your head but also provides cover for your neck and ears. Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection. And finally, instead of wearing flip-flops or sandals, opt for closed toe shoes if possible.
Taking these simple steps will go a long way to protect yourself from those harmful sun UV rays and reduce your chance for skin cancer.
Dr. Tong is a resident physician who sees patients of all ages and provides obstetrical services at Lone Star Family Health Center, a non-profit 501©3 Federally Qualified Health Center operating facilities in Conroe, Spring, Willis, Grangerland, and Huntsville, and serving as home to a fully integrated Family Medicine Residency Program to increase the number of Family Medicine physicians for Texas and our community.