Summer can be great, but it can also be terrible if you experience irritation and blisters from sunburn and spend the rest of the week recovering at home in your room.
It’s tempting to just say screw it and forget sunscreen altogether, but as long as you’re smart about it, there are plenty of ways to enjoy summer without risking serious sunburn or even skin cancer. Here are 5 ways to do just that.
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Tips to Avoid Sunburn
1. Wear Your Hat
Shirts and sunblock are great, but wearing a hat when you’re out in direct sunlight is hands-down one of your best weapons against skin damage. Hats provide complete sun protection for your face, neck, and ears—areas that can get burned even when you apply plenty of sunscreen. That’s why dermatologists recommend that everyone wear one whenever they go outside.
While sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more will shield your face from both UVA and UVB rays, applying it regularly is tricky.
You have to be diligent about reapplying every two hours and make sure you don’t miss any spots on your face, which can be tough. A wide-brimmed hat does all of that work for you, shielding your entire head from harmful rays without requiring any extra effort on your part.
Not only does a wide-brimmed hat offer 100% coverage, but it also protects people who need special attention: If you have thinning hair or scalp issues like alopecia areata (an autoimmune disease that causes patchy baldness), a hat helps protect these sensitive areas from harmful UV light. Plus, hats look good! They come in a variety of styles and colors to match your outfit, so there’s no reason not to rock one during summertime activities. We promise: Your friends won’t think you’re weird if you show up at the beach or pool wearing a hat!
2. Know Your Limits
Applying sunscreen is a key factor in preventing sunburn, but you also have to know how much time you can spend out in direct sunlight.
For example, most experts recommend limiting your exposure between 10am and 4pm (the harshest hours of sunlight). You’ll want to pay attention when planning outdoor events, like barbecues or pool parties.
If you do get burned, it’s important to avoid excessive exposure for 72 hours. After that, you should be able to resume normal activities without worrying about burning again. Also, keep in mind that kids need extra protection—their skin is more sensitive than adults’ skin, so they will burn faster. Apply sunscreen to their whole body and make sure they wear long sleeves and hats when outside!
3. Wear Protective Clothing
For both men and women, one of the easiest ways to prevent sunburn is wearing clothing that covers your skin. For example, long pants and long-sleeved shirts offer more protection than short shorts and tank tops do.
In addition, always wear a wide-brimmed hat as we discussed earlier, in order to protect your head from harmful rays. If you’re spending extended periods of time outside, consider investing in UV-blocking sunglasses as well; they’ll keep you looking good while also shielding your eyes from excessive light.
4. Try Safe Sunscreens
When we think of sunscreens, many of us immediately think about how we need safe sunscreen for our kids. The truth is that adults also need safe sunscreens as well. According to a report from EWG’s Skin Deep database, about two-thirds of common adult-sunscreen products contain chemicals linked with hormone disruption, reproductive harm and other health problems.
Avoid these dangerous ingredients by choosing natural or non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sunscreens instead. Look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (as opposed to mineral or physical) on the label; these are less likely to have chemical additives.
Both physical blockers sit on top of your skin and deflect harmful UV rays away from your body without absorbing into your bloodstream. Zinc oxide is generally considered safer than titanium dioxide because it’s not nano-sized. Plus, it can be used on sensitive areas like lips and eyes.
If you’re using sunscreen to protect yourself against cancer in addition to sunburns, choose an SPF 30 or higher product. And no matter what type of sunscreen you use, remember that wearing protective clothing like hats and sunglasses while staying in the shade whenever possible is just as important as slathering on lotion!
Now, you may be asking yourself what does SPF means? SPF simply means Sun Protection Factor. When you see an SPF number on a bottle, it refers to how long you’ll be protected from sun damage. SPF 15 means that if you normally burn in 10 minutes, you can spend 150 minutes in the sun without getting burned (though it depends on your skin type).
Also, remember that waterproof doesn’t mean anything; even water-resistant sunscreens wear off after about 40 minutes submerged (or sweating heavily) in water.
It’s also important to make sure you apply enough. Most people apply only 25 percent of what they need, so rub it on thickly and don’t forget spots like behind your ears or along your hairline where skin often gets missed.
As a general rule, for example, you should be applying 2 grams of sunscreen to your face. Since most sunscreen bottles are labeled in milliliters and 1 gram is equal to 1 milliliter, that means you should be using 2 ml of sunscreen on your face. Plus it’s very important that you reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating excessively.
5. Take Vitamin D Supplements
If you’re serious about enjoying summer but also want to be responsible about sun protection, consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Vitamin D supplements aren’t only for people who don’t get enough of it from their diet or during regular outdoor activities, but they are also one of the best ways to combat sunburns. Taking daily vitamin D supplements helps improve skin health, which can then help prevent sunburn.