Protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is important at any age. But it’s especially important as you grow older. As we age, our skin becomes thinner from loss of fat and water content. This allows UV light to penetrate more deeply. Also, the body’s natural ability to repair damaged DNA diminishes. Damaged DNA can increase the likelihood of abnormal cell growth that can cause mutations leading to skin cancer. Fortunately, skin cancer is almost entirely preventable. It just takes a bit of consistent precaution.
Here are some tips to keep yourself safe from the summer sun:
Use a sunscreen that is water-resistant and protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF or sun protection factor of 30 or higher. Pay special attention to the hands and feet, as well as any bald spots on your head. Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every two hours to maintain protection. Lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 should also be worn. Sunscreen should not be used as a way to prolong your time in the sun. Even with proper sunscreen use, some UV rays still get through.
Timing is everything
The sun’s UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it is best to plan outdoor adventures in the early morning or late afternoon. If you must go out during these hours, try to stay in the shade as much as possible. The strength of UV rays can also change based on the time of year. They become more intense in the spring --even before temperatures get warmer -- and increase through the summer. Be especially careful on the beach or in areas with snow. These locations increase the amount of UV radiation you get because sand, water and snow reflect sunlight.
Wear the right clothing and accessories
When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to cover your skin. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. For older adults, it’s better to wear clothing made of cotton that is light-colored and loose-fitting. Consider purchasing some clothing that is made to specifically protect against UV rays. Top the outfit off with a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. The ideal sunglasses should block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.