Spending time outdoors is the hallmark of summer. Not only do we swim, play on the beach or spend time out on the boat; we hike, bike, and attend outdoor concerts, festivals, fairs and playgrounds. As ironic as it sounds, protecting your skin from nature is an important part of keeping the fun in these activities.
Protect your skin from the sun: Dermatologists recommend using a broad spectrum SPF 30 any time you’ll be exposed to the sun (so, every day). If you’ll be spending a more extended period of time in the sun, a slightly higher, water resistant SPF should be used (up to SPF 50- anything over is not proven more effective). If you’re into the simpler formulas, like myself, most sunscreen companies offer mineral formulas for both adults and babies. You should apply liberally every 2 hours and don’t forget those lips, ears and scalp! A golf ball sized amount is recommended otherwise you won’t get the protection noted on the bottle.
Not only is it a good investment to stock up on sunscreen, but hats, too (that’s right, fun summer accessorizing)! While baseball caps never go out of style for boys and men, women are also in luck that hats are all the rage in the fashion world at the moment. You can get huge floppy hats, medium rimmed hats and adorable fedoras, to boot! From Target to Bloomingdale’s, you can find any style, and a lot of them come with some form of UPF built in (sunscreen in clothing and hats). If you really want to take the extra step, you can also find clothing that comes with SPF in them at websites like Coolibar, or use laundry detergents meant to wash some SPF into your already fabulous summer wardrobe (Rite Sun Guard, $17.54 Amazon.com).
If simply avoiding cancer isn’t enough of a reason to be safe in the sun, also think about what your skin will look in a few years. Wrinkles, sunspots and uneven, patchy skin tone are all caused by excess sun. Not only do these unsightly blemishes affect your face, but also the places you get the most sun (shoulders, chest, arms and hands). Not to mention, paying the unforeseen costs of going to dermatologist offices more often to screen for cancerous moles, or treatment of skim damage.
Sport a faux tan: While most people believe you’re only damaging skin if you burn, the truth is that even the slightest of tans is an indication that your skin is being damaged. While we all enjoy a “healthy” summer glow, the safest bet is the spray or cream kind. If you’re looking for a more natural, gradual glow, you can use lotions like Coppertone’s Sunless Tanning Gradual Tan ($10 drugstores) or Jergen’s Natural Glow Foaming Daily Moisturizer ($10 drugstores). If you’re unsure of what kind to get, you can always visit any beauty counter at your favorite department store to get advice and find an array of great self tanning creams and sprays. These products have come a long way in the last 5 years, so you can generally get a nice faux glow without looking like a cast member of Jersey Shore.
Protect your child’s skin from the sun: All of the above rules apply. Except the thing is, it’s even more important to be vigilant about use of sunscreen and limiting sun exposure for kids than it is for adults. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, having just ONE blistering sunburn as a child can more than double the risk for melanoma as an adult. I’m sure that scares you just as much as it scares me; which is why I not only slather on the sunscreen with my daughter, but also avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.).
We also keep her in long sleeved bathing suits and hats containing SPF in them; she might not look as fashionable as the other toddlers at the pool club, but she is definitely well protected. Thankfully, most stores carry baby and children’s bathing suits with SPF already in them, taking a lot of guess work out of where to find them. For more information on the effects of the sun on growing skin, or just general information on skin cancer prevention, check out The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.
Protect your skin from insects: Hiking is one of my favorite things to do in the summer; however, wooded areas are breeding grounds for all sorts of insects that can range from annoying (mosquitos) to harmful (ticks). While the general population can use any OTC repellent they’re comfortable with, small children, babies and pregnant women should avoid the use of the chemical DEET (in many repellants). Thankfully, you can find almost any product in a “natural” formula in drugstores or supermarkets, like Burt’s Bee’s Herbal Insect Repellant ($7.99). You can also do research on the Internet to find homemade formulas with things you likely already have in your kitchen cabinets.
Even with the use of repellents, when walking through the woods, you should wear long sleeves and pants, and always check yourself and your children afterward for ticks or tick bites (we tend to give my daughter baths right after, so we can easily notice bite marks on her body and check her scalp). If you find one, or notice a bulls eye type mark, you should contact your doctor or your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. In most cases, you’ll be okay, but many doctors like to do a round of antibiotics to avoid the risk of Lyme’s Disease.
The extra time spent on applying sunblock or bug repellents can be a deterrent for spending time outdoors (or using the appropriate precautions); but anyone with a lobster-like burn or raw, itchy legs and arms will tell you it’s worth it in the long run.