This summer you probably have plans to go out and play in the sun, but be sure to protect you skin from the harmful rays of the sun.
Ultraviolet light, a type of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun, is invisible to the human eye. It can cause different degrees of skin damage if there’s prolonged exposure without protection. This month is National Skin Awareness Month and people are encouraged to not only get their skin checked but also know how to prevent sun damage.
Exercising outdoors has many health benefits but it can also be dangerous if protective measures aren’t used. Unprotected sun exposure can lead to sunburn or a rash for those who are allergic. Skin cancer is the most serious result of too much sun exposure without protection. It affects people of all colors and races.
“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and it is estimated that one person dies from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every hour,” stated the American Academy of Dermatology website.
Dr. Daniel Shurman is the group founder of the Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners which covers the counties of Bucks, Berks, Montgomery and Lehigh. Shurman is trained in Mohs surgery which is a specialized technique used to remove skin cancers. Shurman said many people develop skin cancers and that the rates of certain types are increasing.
“Non-melanoma skin cancer is by far the most common cancer out there and melanoma is on the rise. It’s the fastest increasing cancer that’s out there,” he said.
Shurman said what’s really concerning is that melanoma rates are increasing fast in young people between the ages of 20 and 40. He said the cause of the rate increase is related to sun exposure and tanning. Shurman said people that want a tan should use a spray-on instead of sitting in the sun or a tanning bed.
“Getting tanned through sunlight or ultraviolet light increases your risk for skin cancer and melanoma. It’s highly recommended against by the American Academy of Dermatology,” he said.
To avoid tanning, it’s recommended that people exercise outdoors during the non-peak hours. Shurman said sun light rays are at their highest intensity between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. He said people that sweat a lot or will be directly in the sun should try to exercise outdoors either before or after those hours.
If you are going to be outside during those peak hours then clothing is the first line of defense against ultraviolet rays, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants help protect the skin against the sun. The darker the clothing also increases the UPF which stands for Ultraviolet Protection Factor. Your head also needs to be protected so it’s a good idea to wear a hat when you’ll be outside for a while.
“I think protective clothing is the ultimate way to go,” Shurman said
Protective clothing is also a good idea when exercising in the sun because sunscreen doesn’t work effectively when a person sweats or gets wet. If someone is swimming outdoors or sweating in the sunlight, then sunscreen should be reapplied every 40 minutes.
“There’s no such thing as waterproof sunscreen,” Shurman said. “That word should be removed from any advertising.”
People may not be aware that there are actually two types of sunscreens. Shurman said physical sunscreens have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in them allowing them to work immediately. But most sunscreens are actually chemical-based and have to be absorbed into the skin. In this case, it’s not a good idea to put on the sunscreen right before you leave to exercise outside, Shurman said.
“It takes about 30 minutes for a chemical sunscreen to really be effective,” he said.
It’s recommended that people use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Shurman said SPF 30 is efficient for most people and there isn’t usually a need to go higher than that.
“It’s just more about using the right amount and putting it on in the right amount of time before you work out,” he said.
Not only is it important to notice when you put on sunscreen but’s it’s also necessary to be aware of how much sunscreen you’re using. Shurman said people that are using sunscreen over their whole body should use about two ounces each application. He said a bottle will last for only about four applications if an individual is putting it over all their exposed skin areas each time. Sunscreens also need to be reapplied about every two hours and even sooner if the skin gets wet.
When it comes to how often to use sunscreen on a regular basis, Shurman said that really depends on the individual. People that have more sun damage or are outside for longer periods of time are advised to wear more protection.
“The more fair-skinned you are, the more aggressive you should be with sunscreen,” he said.
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