August is Summer Sun Safety Month, and it’s a great reminder to enjoy our time in the sun responsibly! As much as we love soaking up the sun in the summer months, it’s important to remember that the sun’s rays can be damaging to our skin, eyes, and overall health. For older adults with more sensitive skin, the risks can be even greater.
To help combat sun-related health issues, here are five ways for seniors to stay safe in the sun:
#1: Apply sunscreen (even indoors!)
Did you know that the skin is the body’s largest organ? That’s one reason why skin cancer, or melanoma, is the most common cause of cancer. Every day in the United States, more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with melanoma. Thankfully, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Be sun smart by wearing sunscreen daily!
Contrary to popular belief, protecting your skin when you’re indoors is just as important as protecting it outdoors. UV rays are able to sneak through glass windows, which is why it’s best to wear sunscreen when you’re inside—even when you’re in the car! The easiest way to protect your skin is by wearing and reapplying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. It’s also a good idea to check the expiration date on your sunscreen before applying. Most sunscreens last for 2-3 years, but they may not be as effective if the bottle is exposed to excessive heat.
#2: Wear protective clothing
Another way to stay sun safe is to wear protective clothing when outdoors. If shade is unavailable, opt for sun-protective apparel, which can help to absorb or block harmful UV rays and prevent sun damage. Look for clothing that has a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of at least 30 to help shield your skin from the sun. Not only will you protect your skin, but you’ll stay cool in the summer heat!
#3: Protect your eyes
In addition to sunscreen and sun-protective clothing, make sure to protect your eyes with a high-quality pair of sunglasses that offers 99 to 100% UVA and UVB protection. Sunglasses help to protect the delicate area of skin around the eyes from the sun, and may delay the onset of eye conditions such as macular degeneration, which often comes with age. A good pair of sunglasses may also help slow the progression of glaucoma and ease discomfort from light sensitivity.
#4: Limit time spent outdoors
Did you know that you can experience sun damage on sunny and overcast days? Up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate through clouds, and there’s often a greater risk of sunburn on cloudy days because people are not as aware of their sun exposure. Whether it’s sunny or cloudy out, it’s a good idea to wear sunscreen and be aware of the potential for sun damage.
If you’re planning a day of outdoor fun, monitor the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight and try to opt for more shaded areas. Bring plenty of water to help prevent heat-related conditions like dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke, which can be more common among older adults.
#5: Visit your dermatologist
Just as you see your general physician every year for a physical exam, it’s important to schedule dermatology appointments annually or whenever you have a skin concern. By visiting a dermatologist regularly, you can be proactive about your skin health and address any potential issues early, before they become more serious health conditions. Your dermatologist can also provide you with educational resources to help you keep your skin healthy and safe as you get older.
Stay sun safe all year round!
August may be National Summer Sun Safety Month, but you can take steps to protect your skin from the sun throughout the year. Keep yourself protected by applying a sunscreen of at least SPF 30, wearing protective clothing and sunglasses, limiting time in the sun, and visiting your dermatologist regularly.
Remember, skin health is an essential part of healthy aging. Take steps to prevent prolonged sun exposure now—you’ll be glad you did!