Possibly the biggest health campaign in the past couple of decades has been to make people aware of how dangerous excessive and unprotected sun exposure can be.  The sun can cause a variety of maladies, from painful sunburns to premature aging, and worst of all, potentially deadly skin cancer.  Despite the widespread effort to make the dangers of sun damage known, melanoma rates have continued to rise over the last 30 years.

Protecting yourself from sun damage requires a bit of diligence, but is something everyone can and should be doing.  Some key steps for sun safety:

  • Stay out of the sun in the hottest part of the day. Simply staying out of the sun when its rays are the hottest and brightest is the simplest step you can take to help protect your skin.  If you must be out, try to limit the length of time and be sure to take all the other precautions.
  • Keep an eye on the UV index. While it is always important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, It is of particular importance on days and times when the UV index is forecasted to be moderate or high.  These times are when your skin is in the most danger of damage.
  • Protect yourself with clothing. Wide brimmed summer hats are your most important accessory in the summer.  Keep your face shaded with one as much as possible.  Sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays and tightly woven clothing are other things you can wear to help minimize sun damage.  Clothing items with sunscreen have also become available in recent years.
  • Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!  You should never be outside during the day without it.  Many products now contain sunscreen, such as makeup and moisturizers.  Make sure there is an SPF of at least 15 in any product you are using, and using more than one SPF containing product is a smart move.  Be sure to cover any unprotected areas with regular sunscreen, applied liberally, and don’t forget SPF containing lip balm!  Also be sure to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours if you are going to be in the sun, and immediately after swimming or exercising, even if the product claims to be water resistant.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps. This one is the simplest, but one many people, both men and women, continue to ignore.  Indoor tanning is as dangerous as being out in the natural sunlight and comes with the same risks and warnings as a day at the beach.

For several decades, beauty trends said that only richly tanned skin was beautiful, and this is a notion not everyone has let go of.  Fortunately embracing your natural skin tone, whether extremely pale or very dark, is becoming much more acceptable, and makeup products are increasingly being made in a full spectrum of shades.

If you still feel the need to have a bronzed glow, recent years have brought a plethora of high quality sunless tanners.  While once it was nearly impossible to avoid an orange tint when using them, the newer products are made to darken skin much more subtly and naturally than their predecessors.  They come in a number of formulations from creams and mousses to use at home, to spray products in special booths at salons.

While it may take a bit of effort to protect your skin from the sun, it’s worth the time and energy.  Not only will keeping your skin safe from the sun help it look younger and healthier, it will also protect you from deadly skin cancer.  Develop a habit of sun care that is just as regular as brushing your teeth or combing your hair, and your skin will thank you.

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