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Gearing up for the sun

By Maggie Hsu, July 11 2022

Now that summer is here, it’s important to consider protecting ourselves from the sun as we head outside to enjoy the season outdoors. But why is sun protection so important?

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun cause damage to our skin, specifically by damaging the DNA of our skin cell. This damage can lead to long-term effects such as melanoma, skin cancer and increase aging in our skin. Even for those who feel like they are “sun tolerant,” it’s highly encouraged to still consider protecting your skin as even those who don’t sunburn easily can experience damage to their skin that can lead to these long-term adverse issues.

Now that we are all aware of the dangers of the sun and why we should be taking precautions against the damage UV rays can cause, let’s take a look at a few options to build your arsenal to protect yourself against sun damage. Here are three of the best ways to ensure you are properly protected from the sun.

1. Protective clothing

There are companies that make clothing made from materials with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating — meaning the materials provide a certain level of protection from the sun. But beyond the specialty clothing, our clothes themselves provide a layer of protection for us. When picking out what you will wear for your outdoor adventures, it’s good to try to keep a few things in mind such as the colour of your clothing. Dark colours can absorb UV rays better than light colours. The material of your clothing can also determine the level of protection from the sun. Tight and heavily woven fabrics provide a better shield than sheer fabrics. If you can see through it when held up to light, it’s probably not going to protect you. Loose-fitting clothing is better than anything that’s sitting on the skin. Anything tight means it’s stretched and allows gaps for UV rays to penetrate. Of course, how much coverage a piece of clothing provides is good to note as exposed skin is vulnerable. And lastly, what activity will you be doing? If you’ll be in the water or sweating, wet clothing can cause gaps that allow UV rays to penetrate through fabric

You also want to make sure your scalp and eyes are protected. Arguably, our scalp is the most exposed part of our body and we rarely think about applying any coverage to it when we’re out and about. On top of protecting that skin from sun damage, wearing a hat can also provide shade for your eyes that, yes, can get sunburnt too.

2. Sunscreen

An extra layer of sunscreen on your skin either underneath the clothing or on exposed areas ensures you are fully protected when enjoying the sun. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when browsing the sunscreen aisle at the store.

Look for a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen. This means that the product will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Check the SPF, because most dermatologists recommend at least an SPF 30. Anything higher and the level of protection you’re getting will be largely the same. What are the ingredients? As with everything else we consume, take a look at the ingredients of a product and see if there is anything you may be sensitive to. 

Wearing sunscreen is amazing on its own for protecting against sun damage. However, many of us fail to apply it correctly. Dermatologists recommend applying about 2 tablespoons of sunscreen for the whole body and face. In addition to this, sunscreen should be reapplied about every two hours especially after being in the water or sweating in which reapplication should be more frequent. 

3. Seeking shade and staying hydrated

The easiest form of sun protection is to not be exposed to the sun at all. However, it’s fully understandable that this isn’t always possible as the whole point of summer vacation is to take in as much as we can before winter hits again. Seeking shade is a great way to protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays. Shade gives your skin a break and allows it to cool down.

Additionally, upping your water intake can help you cool down internally and ward off any signs of heat or sun stroke.

As with most things, moderation is key so even though we want to maximize our time in the warm weather, we need to be aware of when it’s been too much for our bodies. Stay safe out there this summer!

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