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It’s UV Safety Month!

Summer is once again upon us, and in July, we’re joining the American Cancer Society in reminding our families and friends to stay safe in the sun! Protecting your skin is essential in preventing both blistering sunburns (ouch) and, of course, skin cancer—the most common cancer in the US.

The first step? Sunscreen!

You might be surprised to learn that most Americans still don’t use sunscreen when they go outdoors. While things like hats and umbrellas certainly help, the added protection of sunscreen can’t be overstated. However, which SPF to use remains a somewhat hot topic.

The higher SPF you go, the smaller the difference in coverage. For example, an SPF 50 protects you from about 98% of UV rays, and SPF 100 protects you from about 99%. Many recommend at least an SPF 50, but keep in mind that no sunscreen protects you completely. Anything lower than SPF 15 might help prevent sunburn, but it will not help to prevent skin cancer.

Sunscreens these days come in many varieties, from sprays to lotions to gels. The options are endless. Plus, more and more brands are coming out with formulas for sensitive skin, so if you tend to get adult acne when you use sunscreen, there may be an option for you. If you’ve got other skin concerns, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.

Sunglasses are actually very important.

When thinking about sun protection, many people don’t immediately think of their eyes—or the delicate, thin skin around them. Recent studies have shown that continued exposure to UV rays can increase the risk of certain eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, or injuries such as photokeratitis (your eyes can get sunburned—it’s called photokeratitis, and it’s as painful as you might think).

Sunglasses ideally block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Most will have a sticker on the lens. Labels that say “UV absorption up to…” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” mean the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays. Those labeled “cosmetic” block about 70% of UV rays. If there is no label, don’t assume the sunglasses provide any UV protection.

You might think a dark lens means more protection, but the protection comes from a chemical coating applied to the lens—not its color. Always check the ANSI label!

 

This month—and all year long—make it your mission to keep your skin and eyes safe from UV rays. While some sun is beneficial for a good dose of vitamin D and you may love that bronzed glow you can get with time in the sun, painful sunburns or even skin cancer aren’t worth it!

For more information about how to protect yourself or your loved one, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. If you have a concerning mole, sore, or spot, call your doctor right away.