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Happily, here we are again, at the beginning of summer. One of the greatest joys of living in Florida, as I do, is the opportunity to spend time close to the water. However, where there’s water, there’s sunshine (most of the time) – and it seems to be getting more intense with each year that passes. Perhaps it’s because of global warming, maybe it’s my imagination, but one thing’s for sure – the sun deserves a great amount of respect! First thought many of us have – sunscreen! So this week I’ve decided to devote my blog to safely having fun in the sun.

I have a red-headed complexion. Yes, I burn. Easily. Over the years, I have learned to be even more careful than others. Plus, my husband Stan and I have always loved boating, so I’ve experienced a lot of sun exposure. You can see why I consider myself rather an authority on sun safety!

The Environmental Working Group has completed its 2018 Sunscreen Guide. Big tip – this Guide is extremely worth the read. This is the 12th year that EWG helped us to both protect our bodies, find the best products, and also offer tips to help you better understand the ingredients of the best (and worst) sunscreens available on the market.

No matter your complexion, if you or your loved ones spend time outdoors, you still need protection from the sun’s rays, and as you’ll learn, not only the rays that burn the skin. This may be one of the most important articles you’ve read in a while, so please listen up

Of course, I use sunscreen, although one of the most important points I want to share with you today is that sunscreen is not my primary mode of protection. Much more important are the following:

  • Make your plans to spend sun-time in the morning, or later afternoon. Harmful UV radiation is strongest at noon. And for teens who crave a glowing tan – you will look even more lovely if you build up your sun exposure slowly. Peeling, blotchy skin is not a crowd-pleaser in a bathing suit.
  • Wear clothes. These days there are even trendy, lightweight, sun-protective clothes that provide immediate protection without layering goop on your skin. And don’t forget your fabulous hat!
  • Make shade a priority. There’s nothing worse than getting caught broiling on the beach with nary a tree or umbrella in sight. And these days, easy-to-carry canopies are inexpensive and easy to assemble and put up.
  • Sunglasses are great fashion fun – and absolutely a necessity to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Guess what can cause cataracts – you got it, overexposure to UV rays.
  • Just don’t allow yourself to get burned. Besides being terribly uncomfortable, unsightly, and generally a miserable experience, sunburns increase your cancer risk – yes they do! And, remember, it’s a cumulative thing.

And now for a few facts about sunscreens. I don’t mean to alarm you, but they’re not all they are cracked up to be!

Did you know that a sunburn is caused by UVB rays? SPF numbers on US-made sunscreens refer only to your relative protection from burning UVB rays.

SPF values may lull a person into believing they are much safer than they actually are. An SPF of 50 blocks up to 98% of UVB rays (when used exactly as directed), however anything above SPF 50 only increases protection to 99% of UVB rays. For example, an SPF of 100 doesn’t offer twice the protection of an SPF of 50, like you might logically think. It only increases your protection by 1%. Great marketing tool though.

However, the even more damaging rays don’t actually create a sunburn. They are the UVA rays that penetrate more deeply into the skin. Scientists have determined that UVA exposure can result in immune system damage, photodermatoses (developing skin rashes after sun exposure, similar to an allergic reaction), damage to precious skin DNA and various cancers. Not to scare you, but this is not fun stuff, especially when it can be avoided with just a little forethought!

Today on the market there are only a few sunscreen companies that are able to provide both adequate UVA and UVB protection to Americans. The problem is, sunscreen manufacturers here in the US can’t use the newer chemical sunscreens that can protect you against UVA rays, even though you will read the term “broad spectrum protection” on the tube. Working with the FDA to bring new chemicals to market is certainly a complex issue, and we don’t need any more toxins or hormone disruptors added to our bodies and environments, which are the current primary concerns for new products. However, the FDA seems to view these issues as low priority, and perhaps that is creating a lot more harm than they perceive for our sun-loving population.

Now you see why you really don’t want to depend solely on sunscreens to protect your wonderful skin from the immediate and also cumulative damage that the sun can do. Sunscreens are helpful, but hopefully are not your only defense against those damaging rays!

Once again, for much more information on this topic, please check out the Environmental Working Group’s 2018 Guide to Sunscreens. You can find quality products there, and lots of interesting research.

So as a quick recap – wear clothing for good protection from sun damage, avoid the day’s most intense rays (and heat!), wear sunglasses with UV protection, and absolutely, have lots of fun this season!