Jeff Mlekush, coordinator of safety operations
It’s just about summertime which means fun (and yard work) in the sun. Take a minute to learn more about skin protection, sun, boat and water safety so you can fully enjoy all summer has to offer.
Skin protection and sun safety
When you’re out in the sun doing yard work or enjoying your favorite outdoor activities this summer, please remember to be safe when it comes to your skin. Too much sun can cause skin cancer which is the most common cancer in the United States. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. See below for the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) sun safety tips to help protect yourself and your family.
Reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree or other shelter when you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts made from tightly woven fabric which provides the best protection from UV rays. Some clothing is certified under international standards and comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. A typical T-shirt has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating lower than 15, so it’s smart to use other types of protection as well.
For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection. If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher or by staying in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Sunscreen and SPFs
Sunscreens are assigned an SPF number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cooler days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get a helping hand for the hard-to-reach places like your back. Sunscreen works best when combined with other precautions to prevent UV damage.
Sunscreen wears off, so you should reapply it if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same sun-protective ingredients used in sunscreens. If they do not have SPF 15 or higher, be sure to use other forms of protection as well, such as sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat.