People love to spend time outdoors during the summer months. Unfortunately, many people simply get too much sun exposure, which helps explain why over 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually. The good news is that it’s fairly easy to keep your skin safe during the hottest months of the year.
The rays of sunlight that are responsible for most skin cancer diagnoses are known as ultraviolet rays, or UV rays for short. While most UV rays come from the sun, they can also emanate from sun lamps, tanning beds and other man-made sources.
While we’re always exposed to UV rays, their strength depends on a number of factors. For example, you will encounter far stronger UV rays between the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM than during early morning or evening hours. The time of year also plays a key role, as UV are much more potent during summer than in other seasons.
Some other factors might come as more of a surprise; the higher your altitude, the higher your exposure to UV rays. Cloud cover does block UV rays, but not entirely; in fact, you can still get sunburned on a completely overcast day. It should also be mentioned that UV rays don’t just head in one direction, and can bounce off pavement, water, sand and snow.
What to Do
While avoiding UV rays is quite literally impossible, you can take steps to protect your skin from sunlight-related damage.
Pick and Choose Your Outdoor Time: This shouldn’t be too hard – if possible, try to minimize your time spent outdoors between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM.
Cover Up: If you do have to go outside, try to cover your extremities with long-sleeved shirts and pants. While you might think otherwise, dark colored clothing protects against UV rays better than lighter colors. Try to find clothes that are tightly woven, which will help to block out the sun’s rays.
Pick Up Some Sunscreen: Sunscreen is used by millions of people to ward off sunburns. The next time you go shopping, try to pick up a sunscreen with a high SPF. It’s important to remember, however, that sunscreens do not block out all UV rays.