A Dermatologist’s Advice on How to Avoid a Sunburn
As summer draws closer and days get longer, sunburns seem to be a part of life.
Research in 2017, revealed that over 50% of the population in the United States had suffered at least one sunburn. As a Board-Certified Dermatologist, with over 20 years of practicing medicine, I find this figure to be frightening. Sunburn is a major cause of skin cancer, particularly malignant melanoma. Just 5 sunburns in a lifetime doubles the risk of a skin cancer. In the United States alone, 1 in 5 individuals will develop skin cancer. It claims the life of one person every hour. With grim statistics like these, it is important now more than ever, to “Avoid the Burn”.
With the statistics out of the way I would like to cover some skin care tips and sun smart behaviors that will help individuals protect themselves from the sun’s UV radiation.
First off, it is important to be aware that the Sun’s Ultraviolet radiation or UV index is at its highest 10am to 4pm.
What this means, in layman’s terms, is that this is the time of day when the sun is strongest. The sun’s UV radiation is the chief causation of most skin cancers. During this 10am to 4pm window, prolonged exposure should be mitigated if not outright avoided.
Individuals should apply a healthy amount of broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30. So, what does broad spectrum mean? Broad spectrum means that the SPF in the sunscreen will protect you from Ultraviolet UVA and UVB. Any sunscreen less than SPF 30 will not provide broad spectrum protection. In my opinion, any sun protection with an SPF of less than 30, isn’t healthy.
Next, individuals need to know how much sunscreen SPF to wear
and how often they should re-apply it.
To avoid sunburn, you can follow the 1 oz rule or fingertip rule1. Using the correct amount of sunscreen is key. For individuals who want to truly protect themselves as much as possible from the risk of skin cancer and other sun related risks, I recommend the Eclipse Rx personal UV sun monitor + activity tracker. This wearable device provides you with the ability to input your skin type and sunscreen SPF. Using that data the Eclipse Rx device can then remind you to re-apply your sunscreen as needed. This is key because sunscreen loses its effectiveness over time, especially with sweating or activities like swimming. Another great feature of the Eclipse Rx personal UV sun monitor + activity tracker is that it is water resistant. So, swimming and sweat are no problem!
The Eclipse Rx also tracks the real-time strength of the sun and will provide you with notifications on your smart phone and a gentle vibration, from the device on your wrist, to alert you to move indoors to avoid over exposure. The Eclipse Rx personal UV sun monitor + activity tracker is an innovative approach to sun protection that will help you become more aware of your sun habits and improve your behaviors.
However, there is still more that you can do to protect your skin. Protective clothing is another form of sunburn prevention. Most protective clothing has a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor, similar to SPF) of at least 30 and most have a protection factor of 50. These clothing options are great because most are cotton (I would avoid the polyester as they get too hot) and can be worn all the time while outdoors. UPF apparel can also be worn in the water. If the protective clothing gets wet, it does not lose its UPF. UPF apparel is great for protecting the chest, abdomen, back and arms. Paired with the Eclipse Rx personal UV sun monitor + activity tracker you can feel confident you are protected from sunburn.
Also, don’t forget to “seek shade”. Shade from a tree, umbrella or building/structure can provide an adequate level of protection from sun exposure and prevent sunburn. Shade does not replace sunscreen though. In fact, a recent study compared sitting under an umbrella at the beach without sunscreen vs sitting under an umbrella with sunscreen. The umbrella without sunscreen group received UV rays and suffered sunburns whereas the umbrella group with sunscreen did not. Again, I go back to the benefits of the Eclipse Rx personal UV sun monitoring device. Eclipse Rx will accurately detect UV exposure where ever you are; which means if you are under the shade of an umbrella Eclipse Rx will keep you informed of any and all UV rays that you may still be exposed to. For example, UV rays reflected off the sand and water may still be reaching you, even though you are sitting under an umbrella.
Lastly, there are some oral solutions that prevent sunburn.
Most oral tablets contain an ingredient called polypodium leucomotomos. This form of sun protection can be used in additional to traditional sunscreen SPF. Be advised that oral solutions provide minimal UV protection (about SPF 2-4).
It is possible to “Avoid the Burn!” Being sun smart and taking into account all of the ways you can change your sun habits and behaviors will help you avoid skin damage, pre-mature aging and most importantly skin cancer. Using sun protection products, like the ones I’ve covered, are your best way to avoid sunburn and LUV Life Outdoors!