Even in the fickle-weathered granite state, July is a reliably hot and sunny month where we can barbecue, swim, and play outside through the long days. With that welcome warmth also comes UV exposure from the sun and the familiar reminders to wear sunscreen. We thought that in honor of July being National UV Safety Month, a review of this often forgotten, but important protection, was in order.
Sunscreen, when used correctly, blocks most UVA and UVB radiation from reaching our skin, which then protects us from the harmful carcinogenic effects. These can include, wrinkling, sagging, age spots, eye damage and, most deadly, skin cancer. Melanoma, the deadliest of the bunch, kills more than 8,000 Americans each year. Make sure the one you buy says it offers “broad-spectrum” protection since that’s the kind which offers us the most protection.
The SPF number on the label helps you know how much UVB is blocked. SPF 15, the lowest number you should use, blocks about 93% of the rays, while SPF 30 and SPF 50 blocks 97% and 98% respectively per skincancer.org. No sunscreen can block 100% of the damaging rays, and all need to be reapplied every two hours to keep working, or after swimming, toweling dry or even a heavy sweat. Anyone over 6-months old should wear sunscreen, those 6-months and under should be kept out of the sun.
Wondering what UVA and UVB are? They are both forms of ultraviolet radiation. UVB is shorter in wavelength than UVA, and is the one that gives us sunburns. It damages the surface layers of our skin, causing wrinkling, age spots and cancers. It can’t penetrate glass, it gets reflected off, but it also reflects off snow and ice so we can become sunburned even in the winter from this.
UVA accounts for 95% of the UV radiation that reaches us from the sun and can go through clouds and glass to damage us! It damages deep into the skin, both causing us to tan and also causing cancers.
You should apply your first coat of sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside to give it time to do its job, and that thing about the shot glass full? It’s true. You need to apply the full 1 oz amount to really get full coverage and full UV protection. This holds true even for those overcast days. Just because the sun is behind those clouds, doesn’t mean the UV rays stay there. Up to 40% of UV radiation still reaches us!
To give your sunscreen, and yourself, some extra help, stay out of the sun and in the shade from 10 AM to 4 PM, wear a hat with a nice wide brim, and sunglasses that block UV rays. You’ll look like a movie star, keep your skin young looking longer, and most important, block those cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays!
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Choose local. Choose Franklin VNA & Hospice.
For more information, call Franklin VNA & Hospice at (603) 934-3454 or visit www.FranklinVNA.org.