By Vicki Little
Since May is skin cancer awareness month, it is the perfect time to stock up on your sunblock and learn about ways to protect your family’s skin.
If sunscreen were 100% effective, we wouldn’t find ourselves with that glowing tan after a day at the pool slathered up with SPF 50. The best way to avoid a sunburn is to avoid the sun completely, when possible. This doesn’t mean you have to stay inside and watch the fun from your window, however. Enjoy your picnic in the shade of a tree. Watch your kids poolside with a light long-sleeve shirt. Wear hats as much as possible. Avoid the sun while it’s most intense, at mid-day. If you or someone in your family does get a sun burn, don’t panic — just apply an aloe lotion and stay out of the sun for a few days. Then use a higher SPF the next time you go outside.
When playing at the beach or pool, wear a cover-up and have your kiddos cover up their delicate shoulders with swim shirts or T-shirts. Combine these strategies with a sunscreen, and spend your money on one that is high-quality.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SUNSCREEN from the American Cancer Society:
- SPF is a sunscreens Sun Protection Factor, or the level of protection that the sunscreen will provide from the harmful rays that cause sunburns.
- You should always try to purchase a broad spectrum sunscreen that will protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and you should always use an SPF of at least 30.
- You should be lathering up with more sunscreen than you may think. A full ounce of sunscreen is what you should be using to cover your arms, legs, face and neck (for an average adult).
- Sunscreens do have an expiration date, and while many of them are good for about 2-3 years, you should also be factoring in the time it has been sitting on the shelf. In addition, heat exposure shortens the life of sunscreen. The best rule of thumb is to replace your sunscreen each year.
- While there is a wide range of different SPF’s, the difference in protection gets less with each increased increment. For example SPF 15 will filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 will filter 97% and SPF 50 will filter 98%. If you get the top range of SPF 100, you will be filtering about 99%.
- Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours, but also after swimming, sweating or wiping off with a towel.
- Sunscreen is no longer allowed to advertise as “waterproof” or “sweat proof”, and if it claims to be water resistant it must disclose if it was tested to protect for 40 minutes or 80 minutes. *
Consumerreports.org cautions against using the spray sunscreen because there are too many variables in play to ensure you are getting adequate coverage. The wind can blow some of the spray away from the skin, you can’t tell where you have covered your skin and if you have completely covered it, and the spray sunscreen can be flammable if not totally dry before your child goes near an open flame, like a campfire.
Spending time outside is a healthy and fun way to spend time as a family. Just be aware and keep your family safe this summer by avoiding too much direct sun and using sunscreen. That precious skin is worth protecting.
Vicki Little is a work-at-home mom with two young kids. A Colorado native, she is the Publisher and Editor of Macaroni Kid Aurora and Downtown Denver. When she isn’t writing or trying to keep up with her kids she can be found volunteering, reading, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends.
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