Summer Means Sunscreen

As summer rolls around, many people find themselves enjoying the outdoors. Whether outside intentionally to exercise, garden, enjoy a barbecue, or family gathering, warm temperatures and clear days mean constant sun exposure.

I'm lucky enough to live in one of the sun capitals of the world (Southern California) so having that big ball of fire in the sky is something we take for granted. Anytime the temperature drops below 70 degrees, out comes the wool caps, ski jackets, and snow boots. Trust me, sometimes 68 is cold and the wind chill makes it feel like 65. Besides, they always keep those Starbucks air conditioned! Perhaps just as silly (and definitely more dangerous) than being bundled up on a semi-cold day, are the folks who shed clothes at the first ray of sun and those who yearn for a deep tan but actually end up with a bad burn.

I am outdoors quite a bit and always apply sunblock before leaving the car or leaving my house. I got into this habit after hanging out with a buddy who always did the same. Now that it is second nature, I cannot believe how many people forget, or refuse to apply anything at all. Skin cancer prefers those with fair skin, but it does not discriminate.

Skin is the biggest organ in the body and the shear surface area gives the sun a big target to hit. Skin elasticity is also affected by UV exposure (the sun has UVA and UVB rays) so those who are looking for a nice complexion now, are setting themselves up for prematurely wrinkled skin. Skin damage can be painful, dangerous, and is easy to avoid. Sunblock should be applied frequently (especially after being exposed to water). The amount should be at least enough to fill a shot glass and it should be applied liberally. Do not forget to cover the face, lips, ears, and hands. Nothing can ruin a vacation or outing like getting sick from too much sun exposure. Even tanning beds pose a risk since they still emit UV rays, but I'll save that rant for another time.

Some statistics show that even one bad burn (ie one that blisters) in children can more than double their risk of getting cancer. We should encourage children to wear sunblock and better yet, we should lead by example when going outdoors. Australians remind us to "slip, slap, slop" when going out into the sun. They recommend we slip on protective clothing, we slap on a hat, and we slop on sunblock. Remember that the effects of the sun are also present when the days are cloudy. You should apply sunblock when in the water, in the snow, and in general when spending extended periods outdoors.

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