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Published on June 29, 2016

Brush Up on Sun Safety

June 29, 2016

woman with sunscreen on her shoulderDon’t let myths about sunscreen hamper your best efforts to shield your skin from the sun.

Adults and kids should wear sunscreen year-round while outdoors, but sun safety is arguably even more important during the summer. Before you head outside, test your sunscreen and skin care knowledge.

Myth or Fact: You don’t need to wear sunscreen on cloudy days.

Myth. Cloudy skies provide little protection from the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) estimates that up to 80 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can lead to skin damage, still reach the skin on overcast days.

Myth or Fact: Most adults don’t use enough sunscreen.

Unfortunately, this is a fact. According to the AAD, most people only use one-quarter to one-half of the recommended amount. Apply enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass during every application. Cover your legs, arms, back, neck and face. Don’t forget about often-overlooked patches of skin, such as the tops of your ears, your feet and hands, and any portion of your scalp that is exposed.

Myth or Fact: You don’t need to apply sunscreen on tattooed skin.

Myth. Tattoo ink doesn’t protect skin from the sun. In fact, certain dyes can increase your risk of skin irritation after sun exposure.

Myth or Fact: The higher the SPF, the better.

Not necessarily. As SPF increases, the amount of protection evens out. For example, sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 block 93 percent of rays, while products with an SPF of 34 block roughly 97 percent of the sun’s rays, according to the American Melanoma Foundation. Once SPF rises over 30, however, benefits begin to wane. Sunscreens with SPFs of 50 or higher offer little extra protection.

The AAD recommends choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. To maximize the protection offered by sunscreen, minimize direct sun exposure between the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Myth or Fact: You can purchase clothes that offer as much protection as sunscreen.

Fact. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, long pants and long-sleeved t-shirts—along with sunglasses—are tried and true sun-safety recommendations. Specially designed clothing, including swimwear and long-sleeved shirts with SPFs of 30, 50 or higher, are especially attractive options for young babies who aren’t old enough to wear sunscreen. Look for products that carry ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) labels, which means they’ve been tested to block the rays.

What’s the Deal with Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a nutrient that plays an important role in health. It helps the bones absorb much-needed calcium and may even support your immune system. The name vitamin D is misleading—it’s actually a hormone the body produces. Exposure to UV rays triggers the body to create vitamin D. This can present a sun-safety quandary.

The optimal amount of vitamin D people should consume on a daily basis is debated. Most adults and kids, with the exception of babies and adults over age 70, need at least 600 IU of vitamin D per day, according to the Institute of Medicine. But other groups worry this may not be enough. Speak with your physician to see if you need a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D is also found naturally in some foods, such as salmon, and you can purchase bottled forms of the supplement or foods fortified with vitamin D.

Learn more tips about sun protection

Sources: skincancer.orgaad.orgmelanomafoundation.orgskincancer.orgewg.org,clevelandclinic.orgberkeleywellness.comhealth.harvard.edu

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