Summer is officially here and with a vengeance. It is hot, and that’s a fact! I absolutely love long, hot, summer days, and I love the long, warm, summer evenings, even more. Unfortunately, I have read many articles explaining that summer can be extremely unhealthy.
To tell you the truth, both statements are true. Summer is fabulous, and to my mind, the best time of the year. But, there are things one must do to protect against the hot and harmful elements of summer. Many thoughts I will share are common sense and simply serve as reminders. However, a few new things are important, as there is updated research about "things" we thought we knew.
There are recent finds about the strength of various SPFs (Sun Protection Factor) in sunscreen. The rule was the higher the SPF, the longer the protection against damaging ultra-violet (UV) rays, which are believed to cause skin cancer. Now research states money spent for higher number SPFs—50 and up—is not a good value. In fact, SPF 30 blocks 97 percent of UV rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. That isn’t much difference. Good Housekeeping also rated No Ad brand higher than many of the more expensive ones.
Another sun protection tip: Use tons of sunscreen! Slathering your skin with sunscreen is key, in addition to covering every place the sun can reach. I have a friend who just got back from Hawaii with third degree burns on the tops of his feet—remember your feet! Going snorkeling? Apply sunscreen on your back, even if you are wearing a T-shirt. Don’t forget the back of your neck and upper back (just above T-shirt line)—these are easy burn zones. Bull Frog sunscreen with insect repellent in it is great for picnics, hikes and working in the yard.
It is true that people with blond or red hair and very fair skin burn easily and are more prone to skin cancers—be extra careful. However, darker skin types are at risk, too. I am part Native American and have dark olive skin, and I need to watch it. Also, African American skin burns just as severely as all others. Everyone needs sunscreen!
Remember, there is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. It comes off with swimming, sweating and time. It comes off even more quickly in salt water—reapply after every dip into the water! Applying sunscreen every two hours while out in the sun is a good rule of thumb, even if you do not go into the water.
Here is new information: There is no such thing as a “base tan!” Believing that first browning will keep you from burning is not true. You are always at risk of burning, which can cause serious, long-term damage.
Finally, we all know that it is imperative to stay hydrated. Hydration is more of a health factor now than ever before. The heat factor, combined with being outside more, makes drinking water before you are thirsty all the more important. People are rushed to emergency rooms daily due to dehydration. While most are released the same day, it takes weeks to fully recover and feel normal after a bought of dehydration. It’s very scary, too, and can cause unconsciousness, severe confusion and death. So, the “drink when you are thirsty” theory does not apply in the summer, especially if you are out and about or at the beach. Be sure to drink a minimum of eight (8-oz) glasses of water a day and more if you are in the heat for extended periods of time.
Water is easily available, and usually I am all for the most natural and easiest solution, but in this case, I am going to diverge a bit. Sports drinks with electrolytes are also a good bet. In addition, green tea, bottled teas, and yes, even sweet tea, can not only help keep you hydrated, but also keep your skin more supple and less apt to burn. Keep a cooler filled with drinks with you at the pool, beach or in the yard. The extra trouble is well worth it. By the way, I did not include sweetened sodas in the “drink it” list or alcoholic beverages—both work against hydrating.
So, summer is here and let’s all enjoy it as much as we can. If you do get sunburned, do not apply heavy lotions or Vaseline type products. These keep the burn in and increase pain. Try a cool Epsom salts bath or Aloe in the purest form. Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it is very vulnerable. Get into the habit of protecting yourself—an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (Benjamin Franklin). Love, Judith