With summer weather just around the corner, it’s an important time of year to remember sun safety tips, especially for older adults. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than five million annual cases of skin cancer in the U.S., and most are found in older adults. So we’ve gathered three, CDC-endorsed tips to help you manage sun safety.
1. Stay in the shade
The most common cause of sun damage to skin cells is too much exposure to ultraviolet rays. A simple way to practice sun safety is to avoid the sun — but this doesn’t mean you can’t go outside! Regular activity, fresh air, and exercise are important factors in continued, long-lasting health.
You can avoid the sun simply by seeking and staying in the shade whenever possible. Walk under tree-lined paths or cross over to the shaded side of the street. This can protect you, not only from sun damage, but heat exhaustion as well. Going on a picnic or catching up with a friend on a park bench in your favorite park? Finding a nice tree to lounge under can offer you a much-needed reprieve from the constant sun.
2. Use sunscreen
Sunscreen is a necessary tool for skin protection at any age. There are so many different types of sunscreen out there, which do you choose? Ultimately, your needs will be personal, depending on your lifestyle and what kind of activities you prefer enjoying out in the sun.
The most important thing to consider will be the sun protection factor (or SPF). Generally, dermatologists recommended an SPF of 50 or higher for the best skin protection. SPF 50 is also a good floor if you’re looking for an anti-aging element to your sunscreen. It also offers additional nutrients that are healthy for your skin, such as vitamin C and vitamin E. If you’re especially active, you will also want to consider a water-resistant sunscreen.
Regardless of what kind of sunscreen you choose, remember to apply generous applications on all exposed areas (don’t forget your ears!) and reapply regularly (every couple hours or so).
3. Cover Up
Shade is great, but what if there’s no shade? Take the shade with you! Another easy way to protect yourself from the sun is to cover up as much as possible. This means wearing hats with a visor or brim, wearing long-sleeved shirts, and wearing long pants that cover you down to your shoes.
Natural fibers tend to work best in the heat, clothing made from cotton, linen, even merino wool can help you cover up while keeping you cool and offering breathability. It’s best to avoid synthetic fibers, like polyester, nylon, etc. These materials don’t breathe well and can trap in the heat and become abrasive against your skin. Also, and this probably seems obvious, stay away from leather.
The best form of protection is using a combination of these tips — or all three whenever possible. According to the CDC, only about 15% of older adults use all three forms of protection, which has led to rates of skin cancer being highest among those aged 65 years and above. Practicing active and sensible sun protection measures can help keep your skin healthy in your later years. Be sure to use the shade, layer up, and cover up — and get out there and enjoy the summer!