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Don't Forget the Sunscreen

I'm sitting here now red-faced, wishing that I, in fact, had not forgotten the sunscreen today. The weather where I live was not particularly hot, although it was sunny with very few clouds in the sky. I felt my face was hot when I stopped by the fountain to splash some cold water on my face and head and to take a drink. It wasn't until I looked in the mirror, red-faced with white circles around where my sunglasses had been, that I realized I forgot to put sunscreen on my face. Now, I will get to spend the next few days with a sunburn, and the summer with a "who is that masked woman" tan on my face.

I do use a moisturizer on my face every day that has SPF 15 protection. That is the minimum sunscreen protection that is recommended for sunscreen. I also use the same moisturizer on my lips for sunscreen protection. I find that it works better than lip balms or lipsticks, which tend to rub off easily, clog the pores in my lips, or exacerbate cold sores or mouth blisters when I get them. For the rest of my body, when I am working out, I use a "Sport" version of sunscreen lotion. "Sport" sunscreens are usually water resistant or very water resistant. Water resistant means that sunscreen will maintain its SPF for up to 40 minutes in water. Very water resistant means that the sunscreen will maintain its SPF for up to 80 minutes. I use a very water resistant sunscreen, so even if I sweat (sweat is mostly water), then my sunscreen is good for up to 80 minutes. After that, it is recommended that I reapply at least every two hours. However, I would be more prone to reapply after the 80 minutes (two hours is only 120 minutes).

The particular sunscreen I use for my skin when I am working out is broad spectrum SPF 30. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. When I use SPF 30, I am protecting my skin from the sun's rays by only allowing 3 percent of the UVB rays to hit my skin. This means also that it would take 30 times longer for me to get a sunburn than I would if I didn't wear sunscreen. Also, I am more protected from getting skin cancer. Since my sunscreen is broad spectrum, I also am protected from UVA rays, which cause premature aging, wrinkles, tanning, and ultimately sunburn.

I do need to wear sunscreen to protect myself from the sun because I am at increased risk of skin cancer. I have light skin, green-blue eyes, and some freckles. Men are more likely than women to develop skin cancer. Some people with darker colored skin believe they don't need to wear sunscreen because they think they cannot develop skin cancer. Although they are at significantly lower risk, they still can develop skin cancer, and they can get sunburned. Sunburn is damage to the skin. Although many people do not think of the skin as such, it is an important organ of the body and is the largest part of the integumentary system. Another way to keep skin healthy in the summer is to remember to stay hydrated.

Besides wearing sunscreen, other ways to protect yourself from the sun include:

  • Stay in the shade
  • Wear a hat
  • Wear long shirts and pants that cover your body
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure 

Harvard Women's Health Watch. The Science of Sunscreen. Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School.
Healthy Lifestyle. Adult Health. Best Sunscreen: Understand Sunscreen Options. MayoClinic.
Skin Cancer Information. Ask the Expert: Does a High SPF Protect My Skin Better? Skin Cancer Foundation.
Skin Cancer. Basic Information. What Are The Risk Factors for Skin Cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). NIOSH Fast Facts: Protecting Yourself From Sun Exposure. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.