Sunscreen is the first line of defense against sun exposure — we all know that — but how else can we protect ourselves from an increased risk of skin cancer during the summer months, and beyond? Consider these helpful tips for protecting yourself against damaging UV rays.
1. Wear a wide-brimmed hat
Ball caps are the headwear of choice for most people, especially men, and while these hats provide some protection against the sun (and critical coverage for bald heads), the bills don’t allow for total coverage for the face, including the tip of the nose and chin. For more comprehensive protection, opt for a wide-brimmed hat, like bucket or safari hats. Buffs — just like the ones worn by contestants on Survivor — are also an option, as the tube shape and soft material allow for maximum coverage and options as to how it can be worn. I can personally recommend the Buff USA UV Collection for its ability to block up to 95 percent of harmful UV rays. (See also: 10 Ways to Age Well for $0)
2. Apply protective film to windows
If you spend a lot of time in your car, or by any window where the sun shines in, look into protective window film to block those strong rays from affecting your skin. This happens frequently to people who drive with the windows down, as your left arm is typically exposed to the sun while it’s resting on the door frame.
Solar Gard developed a revolutionary sun protection technology for its automotive and residential window films, which provides protection equivalent to SPF 285. Its films come recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation and provides 99 percent protection against UVA and UVB rays.
3. Start your day with a broad-spectrum sunscreen
Sunscreen is an absolute must in the summer, but it’s not just for when you go to the beach. René Serbon, Founder of Dermal Systems, suggests applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen in the morning during the summer, even when the sun isn’t beaming. “Even on cloudy days, the UV rays can still be damaging to the skin,” she says.
Don’t just think about sunscreen during the summer, though. If you spend more than 20 minutes a day outdoors as part of your job or daily routine, you ought to apply sunscreen habitually to ensure your safety.
4. Touch up with a dry sunscreen as needed
A problem that many makeup wearers face is how to maintain a sunscreen routine with putting on a full face of makeup. Serbon has the answer for that.
“I highly encourage all my clients, especially those who wear makeup, to invest in a dry sunscreen,” she says. “To be a sun-smart superstar, you must reapply sun protection every two hours; a dry sunscreen makes that very easy. It can be applied over makeup, and is a physical block, so effective immediately.”
Dry sunscreen (or brush-on sunscreen) can be applied just like foundation, and most of it comes in a brush-tipped tube.
5. Avoid direct sunlight during peak damage times
Strongest sun hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and most sun-protection advocates will recommend that you stay out of it altogether. That’s not always possible, of course — that’s prime beach time — so try to lessen your exposure with apparel; accessories, like an umbrella; and a SPF of 30 or higher.
6. Seek the shade whenever possible
Remember the ’70s and ’80s when everyone was dousing themselves in tanning oil and crisping up their skin like a rotisserie chicken? Those folks are probably regretting that now, because we know exactly what can happen. If you don’t get diagnosed with skin cancer, you’re gonna look like a shriveled up prune by age 50.
“When you feel like baking in the sun, remember that the sun stimulates an enzyme called collagenase, which breaks down collagen fibrils,” Serbon explains. “This equals premature aging and while [there are procedures for that], prevention is the best approach to a youthful glow.”
Sit under the umbrella or a tree or the awning of an outdoor bar. You are not a chicken, so protect that delicate skin.
7. Make sure your glasses are up to snuff
Skin protection is important, but what about your eyes? According to the Vision Council’s 2015 UV Protection Report, seven in 10 American adults are unaware of the link between sun exposure and serious vision problems. But just like exposure to UV rays can damage our skin, it can also harm the eyes or affect vision.
Optometrist Dr. Jennifer Lyerly offers these sun-safe tips:
“Darker lenses don’t mean greater protection. Don’t be fooled by this misconception.”
“Ask your doctor about how protective your glasses are against UVA and UVB rays. They should provide at least 98 percent protection.”
“Consider Transitions lenses, which block 100 percent of UV rays and adapt to changing light.”
“Wraparound sunglasses will protect your eyes from sun glare.”
8. Wear long sleeves
If it’s not a show-some-skin beach day, opt for long sleeves if you’ll be outside for an extended period of time, like working in the yard or out on a hike. Any long-sleeve tee will do, but I like to wear the sweat-wicking shirts or SPF-protection shirts since they’re light enough to keep me cool, but also protected from harsh rays.