It’s that time of year again, those months we all look forward to when life (sometimes) gets a little bit slower, the days a bit longer, and many of us take (yes!!!!!) a vacation. It’s also time for Don’t Fry Day, which is the Friday before Memorial Day. That’s the day when organizations including the American Cancer Society and led by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention remind you to be sun safe, and know what to do to protect the skin you are in.
From an American Cancer Society perspective, the rules are pretty straight forward and easy to remember:
- Slip! (on a shirt)
- Slop! (on the sunscreen)
- Slap! (on a wide brimmed hat), and
- Wrap! (on a pair of UV protective sunglasses)
I could go through a long list of what you should do and how you should do it to protect your skin, but it’s easier to go to our website or to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention website for that information. You should take the information to heart. Skin damage isn’t a walk in the park (or on the beach, for that matter)-either now while you may be on vacation, or years later when you deal with the delayed effects such as skin aging, wrinkles, and-yes-skin cancer.
You can’t be expected not to enjoy the outdoors. That’s part of a healthy lifestyle. Staying inside day in and day out just isn’t fun. Unless there is a reason you can’t go out of doors, you should spend time outside. It’s how you spend that time that can make all the difference. [more]
Wearing sunscreen-preferably one with an SPF of 30-50 that is broad spectrum (interferes with absorption of UVA and UVB rays) and water resistant (read the label to see how long the water resistance lasts) are important factors to consider. Apply lots and lots of it, and apply it often: every 2 hours is the usual, but more frequently if you are active, swimming, running or otherwise sweating from physical activity. Read the label and follow the directions. It’s that simple-but only if you actually do what you are supposed to do.
Seeking the shade while outdoors is also beneficial. Actually being in the shade protected from the sun’s rays is the best protection against damaging your skin. It trumps sunscreen, which most people just don’t use properly or assume that it is complete protection. It’s not.
Last summer while at a Georgia beach my wife and I were taking a walk when we noticed that probably over half the people there had some form of beach umbrella or canopy-and they were actually sitting under it!!! There clearly were not as many “sunbathers” as we have seen before. Maybe the message is getting out, but it certainly didn’t look like they weren’t having fun–just maybe with a little less direct sun exposure than may have been the case in the past.
And don’t forget those wide-brimmed hats!!! As a skin cancer survivor, I frequently carry one of my several such hats with me when I travel. It’s collapsible, doesn’t look bad, and protects my face, my ears, and the back of my head. If you want to cover your neck, then there are hats that can do that to.
What’s really neat about all of this is that you can pay attention to your skin while paying attention to your health and enjoyment. Collapsible hats, easy to use sunscreen that does what it says it does, UV sunglasses, shirt fabrics that not only look good but feel good and protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays… Who can’t do that?
It’s no more “woulda, coulda, shoulda.” When I reflect back on what caused my skin cancers and my age spots that’s what I can say. But in fact we couldn’t do it. We didn’t have sunscreen, we didn’t know about the harms of the sun, maybe we wore a baseball cap occasionally, and we certainly didn’t have the comfortable, good-looking outdoor clothing that we have today. Heck, we didn’t even have the portable canopies that are now so prevalent at the beach. We had baby oil and some kind of bronze goop, not to mention bright surfaced cardboard things that concentrated and reflected the sun right back on our faces and our bodies. Ugh…
So move into the modern era. Take care of your skin. You only get one skin and you can’t order a replacement when it starts to get a bit wrinkled around the edges. Don’t be like me 20, 30 or 40 years from now. This Friday, take “Don’t Fry Day” to heart. I promise you will have much more fun and be much better off for being sun smart.
So enjoy the outdoors, and enjoy the sun but do it safely. The skin you save will be your own..