Excessive exposure to sunlight is a risk to anyone who spends time outdoors – even if it's only a short walk to the post office or grocery store. In as little as 15 minutes, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can scorch our skin or damage tissues. Indeed, a sunburn is only the most obvious form of harm: premature age and skin cancer are other major causes of concern. Data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest many Americans don't adequately protect themselves from UV rays despite the very real danger.
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Using sun care is a prime means of protection against damaging UV rays (which come in two main forms, ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B). These products – which scatter, absorb, or reflect sunlight – are rated for their Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, which refers to the extent of protection they afford against UVB rays.
Here at drugstore.com, we have a comprehensive selection of sunscreens and associated products with SPF ratings of 15 or below. Among the collection are basic skin lotions, moisturizers, and balms that confer some degree of UV protection. Skincare professionals recommend sunscreens of SPF 15 or greater, so it's often a good idea to apply additional protection if you are using a product with a lower rating.
Sunscreen is only effective when you apply it generously and frequently, so it's best to apply 30 minutes before you head out into the sun and reapply at least every two hours – more frequently if you're getting wet or sweaty. Just because the sky's gray doesn't mean you're not vulnerable to scattered UV radiation – use sunscreen whenever you're active outside to be safe.
When using a sunscreen for the first time, be watchful for any adverse skin reactions. There are plenty of different formulations on the market, so you have other options if one or another doesn't work with your skin type.
As important as sunscreen can be in protecting your skin, there are other lines of defense to consider alongside its use. Wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants are great protection against radiation, although fabrics differ dramatically in their protective capabilities (some garments are made from specially designed or chemically treated UV- protective material). Sunglasses aren't just for looking cool: they can also protect your eyes from cataracts and other sun damage as well as protect the sensitive skin surrounding them.
It's also a good idea to structure your activities around the daily pattern of sun intensity. Solar rays are most powerful and damaging between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so, if you can, stay out of the sun during this period. At the broadest level, keeping to the shade as much as possible will minimize your exposure to the most direct and penetrating radiation.
As healthful and spiritually nourishing as sunshine can be, you've got to protect yourself from its more dangerous effects. Moderate your sun exposure and use sunscreen and other protective products and you'll be ready to enjoy the outdoors and sports while maintaining a youthful complexion for years to come.
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