On June 21st, we celebrated the summer solstice, which astronomically means that the daylight hours in the northern hemisphere are the longest of the year. For those of us in Maine specifically, this is to compensate for all the long, cold, dark nights of winter.
However, with this great opportunity and chance for better weather comes the danger of increased possible ultraviolet light exposure. Despite all the benefits of solar power, the sun is not our friend as far as our skin is concerned. We must consider the sun’s rays as harmful for the skin and protect the skin by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen every day.
Sunscreen has been proven to not only prevent skin cancer, but also to prevent the aesthetically displeasing effects of photoaging. Photoaging includes early crêpiness or wrinkling of the skin, visibly broken blood vessels, and age or sun spots in sun exposed areas.
Even though you have read and heard many of these recommendations in the past from me and others, I will reiterate them on the occasion of the summer solstice:
- Wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine.
- Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before sun exposure to allow a protective barrier to form.
- Choose only sunscreen that is labelled “broad spectrum”, meaning that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use about one ounce of sunscreen to effectively cover the sun-exposed areas of the average adult. Many people say “about enough to fill a shot glass”, apparently for the bartenders among us.
- SPF, which stands for Sun Protection Factor, should be at least 30 on the sunscreen you used in order to prevent the effects of photoaging. You may use a sunscreen with a higher level of SPF for added protection time.
- Sunscreen re-application is just as important as putting sunscreen on in the first place. You should reapply sunscreen every 1-2 hours, especially if you are going to be in the sun for prolonged periods of time.
- Even though some sunscreens are labeled “water resistant”, that term is not synonymous with waterproof. Waterproof means that the sunscreen cannot come off when water is applied, whereas water resistant sunscreen comes off with water eventually. Therefore, you should always reapply water resistant sunscreen after swimming or heavily sweating in the sun.
Now go out there and have some fun! We waited all winter for this. You deserve it, but just make sure you protect your skin so you don’t have any long term regrets.