July 9th, 2020
Fresh air, sunshine, and adventure keep us happy, healthy, and challenged. Although the best part of being outdoors is spending time in the fresh air and sunshine, it is smart to stay protected. Whether you’re hiking, running, gardening, fishing, sailing, skiing, or just hanging out, our hats offer UPF 50+ sun protection and innovative technical features to keep you comfortable and protected. However excellent sun protection is about more than just clothing—that’s why we’re grateful for experts like Dr. Sarah Schram of Pima Dermatology, who help us understand the importance of protecting ourselves so we can safely play in the sun all year long.
1. Just how important is sun protection?
On a scale of “1” to “VERY important,” it is VERY important! The two biggest risk factors for skin cancer are genetics and sun exposure. We can’t control our genetics (thanks, Mom and Dad!) but we can control how much sun we are getting. We can do this by avoiding the peak hours of sunlight (10 am - 2 pm in most areas) and through adequate sun protection. Sun protection includes barriers that physically stop the sun from reaching our skin like hats, sunglasses, long sleeves, pants, and bandanas. It also includes the proper use of sunscreen. Need even more incentive to apply that SPF? Your neck ages faster than your face! Your neck often looks older before anything else does because its skin is thinner than that on your face. Preventative measures, such as applying the same products you use on your face, are a good idea.
2. When are we most at risk for too much sun exposure?
Usually when we are less aware of the risks. Don’t let cloudy or cooler days trick you! It is still important to protect yourself even when the weather is cool or the sun is not as bright. Also, don’t let vacation be an excuse for poor sun protection. That beach tan is not worth the possible melanoma down the road (or the wrinkles).
3. What are the most common misconceptions about the sun?
I have darker skin, so I don’t burn. Even though you may not burn, your skin is still susceptible to DNA damage from the sun’s rays. This damage can lead to skin cancer and to changes in your skin color, like blotchy spots on your face.
I have tinted windows so I’m fine while driving. Window tinting definitely helps, but it does not filter out all of the sun’s UV rays, so it is still a good idea to wear sunscreen. I see many patients who have aged more on the left side of their face as that is their “driver’s side.”
It’s overcast so there’s no need to wear a hat or sunscreen. This is a common misconception. Many of the worst sunburns I have seen have happened on overcast days because people failed to protect themselves.
A base tan is a good thing. ANY tan is the result of DNA damage. Look at it as your skin’s cry for help. Once the skin is exposed to UV radiation, it increases the production of melanin in an effort to protect the skin from further damage. There is no such thing as a safe tan.
4. How can we best protect ourselves this summer?
Try to plan activities for early in the morning or later in the evening (bonus: it’s also typically cooler out in the morning for a far better outdoor experience). Seek shade when you can. Many playgrounds now have shade structures. Take an umbrella with you to the beach. Wear a hat, sunglasses, and long sleeves. If you like to swim, wear a swim shirt (also called a rash guard). Most sporting goods stores and several athletic wear companies now carry these. They are comfortable to wear and protect better than sunscreen when in the water.
5. Does the sun affect children differently than adults?
Sun protection is important for both adults and children. Children are not always aware of the risk of “too much sun” so the adults in their lives need to make sure they are modeling good sun-protective practices. I especially recommend swim shirts for children for beach or water activities.
6. Best advice on sunscreen?
USE IT! For regular daily use, I recommend a non-comedogenic sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that also states it is broad-spectrum. If you are going to be exercising or getting in and out of the water, you will want to look for one that is water resistant. You should apply this 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours (or after swimming or sweating). Powdered sunscreens can be great for reapplication if you are wearing makeup. These also work nicely along the hairline or on your part. Even if you’re bald, dry sunscreen works like a charm on the scalp!
7. Any words of advice for people before they head out on an outdoor adventure?
Make sure your sunscreen is not expired and be sure to bring it with you. Put lip balm in your pocket (SPF 15 at least), wear sunglasses, and drink plenty of water. Pick a new trail, drive somewhere new, don a neck scarf, and don’t forget your hat!
About the Guest Author
Sarah E. Schram, MD is a board-certified dermatologist, specializing in Mohs Skin Cancer Surgery in sunny Tucson, AZ, where playing outdoors is a year-round thing. She is the president, lab director, and co-owner of Pima Dermatology. Dr. Schram earned her Doctor of Medicine Degree and completed her dermatology residency at the University of Minnesota Medical School. She has contributed to a variety of medical journals and publications, including the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Dermatologic Surgery, and MedEsthetics Magazine. Dr. Schram is a global traveler, outdoor enthusiast, and can be seen in her Sunday Afternoons trucker hat most every weekend.
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