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Sun Safety: Learn Before You Burn

New tips, old tricks for protecting your skin this summer.

Living in Georgia you probably know a thing or two about sun safety, but every year it’s important to revisit the basics and brush up on what’s new. The following are the top three things you can do to keep your skin fresh and healthy well into old age.

  1. Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when its rays are the strongest.
  2. Cover your skin as much as possible when you are in the sun. Sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeved shirts and pants will go a long way toward protecting your skin.
  3. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Reapply more often when swimming or sweating, even if the sunscreen is labeled as “water resistant.”

Speaking of labels, the FDA wants you to read the label on your sunscreen with the same scrutiny that you use to read the nutrition label on your food. To make that easier, the FDA has announced new labeling requirements for over-the-counter sunscreens, scheduled to take effect by next summer. Going forward, sunscreen manufacturers will have to list both the UVA and UVB protection of their products using the SPF (Sun Protection Factor) for UVB rays and a star rating system for UVA rays.

UVB rays are primarily responsible for sunburns while UVA rays cause tanning. Both UVA and UVB type radiation are responsible for premature aging and skin cancer. To those people who tan easily and forgo sunscreen, take heed! There is no such thing as a safe tan.

Children are the most vulnerable in the summer because of their delicate, new skin. Because they can’t protect themselves, it is up to parents and caregivers to be vigilant on their behalf. It is recommended that children use barrier sunscreens rather than chemical sunscreens. Barrier sunscreens, like those made of Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide, are not absorbed into the skin and provide a physical barrier between skin and the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens are absorbed into the skin and may cause irritation or allergic reactions.

Ask a doctor before applying sunscreen to children under 6 months of age. Babies this young should be shielded from the sun using shade, sun hats and light clothing. Young babies will actually do best forgoing the outdoors altogether during the dog days of summer and staying inside in a climate-controlled environment. There will be plenty of time for them to splash in the pool and roll around in the grass in the future.

No one wants to fear the sun and, frankly, no one has to; staying informed about sun safety, using effective sunscreens and taking simple precautions will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors this summer without compromising your health.

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