A favorite part of summer for many people is spending more time outdoors and in the sun, but it is important to remember how to protect your skin to prevent sun damage.
“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in humans so it’s important that we do what we can to protect ourselves,” Orengo said.
Take advantage of sunscreen options
Sunscreen is the most common way to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays. Orengo recommends wearing sunscreen with SPF 30 or above when you are spending time outside on a sunny day.
While there have been recent concerns about benzene being found in some sunscreens, Orengo said it is an ingredient developed during the manufacturing process that is mainly found in certain spray or gel sunscreens. Despite ingredients, she emphasizes the importance of still wearing sunscreen, especially if you are spending time outdoors.
“Overall, we still recommend sunscreen for the prevention of melanoma, which could be deadly, and for antiaging,” Orengo said. “That’s the main reason to wear sunscreen – to prevent aging, photodamage and skin cancer.”
If ingredients are a concern, she advises finding a physical blocking sunscreen made from zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which creates a barrier on the skin that reflect UV rays and is an alternative to chemical sunscreens. Other options for sunscreen include using a daily moisturizer that contains SPF after you wash your face in the morning. There are also products like Klenskin body wash that contain sunscreen to use in the shower.
Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours while outdoors.
Avoid the sun during peak hours
The sun is at its peak roughly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in Houston. If you plan on participating in outdoor activities, Orengo advises scheduling them outside of this window to lower your chances of sun damage.
If you do plan on being outside during peak hours, then it is important to prep with sunscreen, protective clothing and have an option for shade.
“We advise people not to go out during the most intense part of the day and to do things like running before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.,” she said. “One tip is to check your shadow. If your shadow is short it means that the sun is directly overhead and the most intense, which is when you should seek shade.”
Wear protective clothing
While out in the sun, Orengo advises wearing clothes with tightly woven fabrics that will block out the sun or finding sun shirts or jackets that contain SPF. Although the summer may seem too warm to wear long sleeves, she said most sun shirts and jackets are made with breathable fabrics to block out the sun and keep you cool. Another option is to wash your summer wardrobe in a detergent that adds UV protection into clothing, such as Sunguard.
You can always have sun protection on hand by keeping a sun shirt or jacket in your car if you suddenly decide to spend time outdoors, she said.
“The fabric you wear must be tightly woven, so materials like linen are not the best for protecting your skin,” she said. “Finding a polyester-cotton blend will work best.”
Along with wearing the right clothes, Orengo advises wearing a hat with a brim that is at least three inches wide to protect the head and neck. Find sunglasses that include UV protection to avoid damaging the eyes or developing early cataracts and skin cancer around the eye. Because the feet are commonly missed when applying sun protection, remember to put sunscreen on your feet or wear shoes that cover the tops of your feet.
Certain vitamin supplements also can provide protection from the sun. Orengo said that the most common ingredient found in supplements is a form of vitamin B3 called nicotinamide.
She recommends taking 500mg twice a day and to consult with your physician before taking a new supplement.
“In one study with nicotinamide the researchers found that it had a 30% reduction in skin cancers,” she said.
Learn more information on how to protect your skin this summer here.