Ten Sun Safety Tips for Your Spring Break

Merely Me Health Guide
  • Spring is here and that means many of you may be planning getaways to warm and sunny climates. When you return from your spring vacation you will most likely bring back souvenirs, photos, and good memories. Unfortunately for some of you, your spring break vacation may also include memories of a bad sunburn or even sun poisoning. We are going to give you some sun safety tips so that you can prevent the pain and misery of getting burned or sick from the sun.


    1. Don’t use a tanning bed to get a base tan.


    It may be very tempting to get a base tan at your local tanning salon before you go on your spring break getaway because you may think this is going to give you some sort of protection from the sun. Don’t do it. Not only does a base tan fail to offer much protection (at most an SPF of four) you are also causing great damage to your skin. The latest skin cancer research shows that tanning bed users are 74% more likely to develop melanoma than people who never use tanning beds. The bottom line is that any tan whether it is from the sun or a tanning bed is evidence of sun damage.

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    2. Seek shade from the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


    These are the peak hours that the sun’s rays are the strongest. If you are at the beach during these hours bring a beach umbrella or a tent so you can avoid the sun.


    3. You are going to need sunscreen even on a cloudy day.


    It is a common misconception that you can skip the sunscreen on days where it is overcast. This is not true and in fact between 50 and 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate through clouds.


    4. Make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.


    You want to make sure that you find a sunscreen with the words “broad-spectrum” on the label because this type of sunscreen will block both UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30.


    5. Apply your sunscreen thirty minutes before going outside.


    It is best to use your sunscreen ahead of time before venturing outside so that your skin has time to absorb the lotion. If you wait until you are out in the sun to put on your sunscreen you are hastening your burn time.


    6. Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen if you are outside more than two hours.


    Using sunscreen doesn’t mean you can apply it once and just forget about it. You will have to reapply it every two hours in order to be safe. This also goes for sunscreen which is labeled as water resistant. Swimming, sweating, and using a towel to dry off can reduce the time that your sunscreen will be effective so reapplication is especially necessary under these conditions.


    7. Make sure to cover all exposed skin areas with sunscreen.


    I had the misfortune once to get a bad burn on a small area of my back that I had missed with my sunscreen. Frequently missed areas include the earlobes, backs of the knees, under the chin, back of the neck, and tops of the feet. One ounce of sunscreen should be plenty to cover your entire body.


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    8. Don’t forget to protect your eyes from the sun.


    The UV rays from the sun can cause damage to the retina and the lens of the eye which can lead to permanent damage. Long term UV exposure has been linked to the development of cataracts as well as macular degeneration. When it comes to purchasing sunglasses which will protect your eyes, cheap sunglasses will not do. Some say that wearing sunglasses with no UV filters pose more of a risk than wearing none at all because your pupils will dilate and allow more harmful rays to penetrate the eye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology  recommends looking for sunglasses with a label or tag saying they block 99 to 100% of UV light or “UV absorption up to 400 nanometers.” Wraparound sunglasses may also be a good choice for protecting your eyes as they block the light from entering from the periphery.


    9. Your lips also need sun protection.


    Lips are quite often forgotten in efforts to protect the skin from the sun. Yet skin cancer can develop on lips and especially squamous cell carcinoma. Regular sunscreen for your skin may be irritating on the lip area so it is suggested to buy a lip balm with an SPF to protect your lips. Most skin cancer experts suggest to look for a lip balm with an SPF of 30 and to reapply it every two hours just like your sunscreen.


    10. Be aware of the signs of sun poisoning.


    Nothing can ruin a spring vacation like sun poisoning. This is what happened to me as a teen when I took a spring break in Florida and became violently ill due to too much sun exposure. It is one memory I never care to re-live. In addition to developing a painful blistering burn, I had chills, dehydration, a fever, and nausea. For more information about sun poisoning please read The Symptoms of Sun Poisoning and What You Need to Know about Sun Poisoning


    We hope you have a wonderful and safe spring break. Remember to take the time to protect your skin from the sun. The sunburn you get today may contribute to accelerating your skin’s aging process as well as upping your risk for skin cancer. Bring home good memories from your vacation and not sunburn.


    For more information about skin cancer prevention please refer to these Health Central articles:


    Five Easy Ways to Protect Your Skin from Skin Cancer 


    The Power of Sunscreen


    Want to Prevent Skin Cancer? Stop Doing These Three Things

    Skin Cancer Prevention and Your Medicine Cabinet 

Published On: April 16, 2011