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There’s No Such Thing as a Healthy Tan!

Published on June 18, 2013 by Virginia Women's Center

The kids are out of school, the smells of grilling and sunscreen are in the air and the temperatures in Richmond have surpassed the 90 degree mark. It can only mean one thing: summer is here! As we head into the hot, summer months, it becomes more important than ever to protect yourself and your loved ones from the harmful rays of the sun. Remember, there’s no such thing as a healthy tan!

Schedule outdoor activities wisely

SunThe sun’s rays are the strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.; if possible, avoid scheduling outdoor activities during the middle of the day. It is important to remember that UV rays can reach you on cloudy or hazy days and during any season, not just the summer. The sun’s rays can be reflected by sand, water, snow, ice and pavement and they can also go through light clothing, windshields, windows and clouds. If you must be outdoors, seek shade when you can.

Choose the right sunscreen for you

It’s important to select a sunscreen that works well and one you enjoy wearing. The good news is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently put new rules in place to help consumers understand the benefit of one sunscreen versus another. Here are some of the changes:

  1. You’ll start seeing the words “broad spectrum” on sunscreen bottles. This means that the sunscreen must provide equal protection against UVA and UVB rays. Both UVA and UVB rays can lead to cancer. You want to select a sunscreen that is labeled “broad spectrum.”
  2. Phrases you won’t see anymore: sunblock, waterproof, sweatproof or instant protection. Why these changes?
    • “Sunblock” – this is not accurate since no product completely shields you from the sun’s rays.
    • “Waterproof” or “sweatproof” – this is not accurate. Instead, sunscreens will be required to say how long they offer water resistant protection.
    • “Instant protection” – unless the FDA approves these claims for the specific sunscreen in question, this phrase cannot be used. It takes time for sunscreen to absorb into skin.
  3. Sunscreens have to be clear about their sun protection factor (SPF) and what you will be protected against. If a sunscreen has a SPF of 15 or more, the product lowers the risk of skin cancer and skin aging. Sunscreens with a SPF of 15 or less only help prevent sunburn. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends you select a sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher.


Apply sunscreen correctly

While many of us use sunscreen, we don’t always use it correctly. Sunscreen takes time to absorb into our skin so it is important to apply it at least 30 minutes before going outside. You also need to be sure that you are using enough sunscreen for it to protect your skin. Apply one ounce – about the size of a golf ball – to cover every part of your body exposed to the sun. Be sure to reapply sunscreen again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.

Don extra protection

While sunscreen is important, you shouldn’t rely on it as your only source of protection. When possible, wear long sleeves, long pants and a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, neck and ears. Baseball caps and some sun visors only protect parts of your skin. Also, choose sunglasses that absorb UV radiation to protect the skin and your eyes. Remember to protect your lips by wearing a lip balm that has SPF 30 (or more) protection.