Health & Fitness

Get Sun Smart

sun

A great summer includes sun defence

by Lindsay Ruck

Being outside in the fresh air surrounded by nature is one of the best things you can do for your health.And summer is the perfect time to take advantage of warmer days and longer nights. But simple safety precautions should be taken before stepping outside and spending a day under the sweltering sun.

July is UV Safety Month, making this issue of Fifty-Five Plus the perfect time to talk about sun safety. As we age, our skin becomes more delicate, making it increasingly difficult to protect ourselves against the sun’s UV rays.With this in mind, sun protection should be a top priority.

Avoid spending long periods of time in the sun. Basking in the sun for great lengths of time with the main purpose of showing off a bronzed complexion does your skin zero favours.While that sun-kissed glow may look attractive, a tan is essentially your skin’s way of telling you damage has been done.

Tans and sunburns may leave you more prone to permanent skin damage and worse, skin cancer.

The good news is, one can still look like a sun goddess without actually spending time outdoors.To achieve the appearance of a tan without baking in the sun, consider a bronzer or sunless tanner. But keep in mind that certain products contain harmful chemicals. Always read the labels and do your research. For the face, apply a soft bronzer to the same areas where the sun would kiss your skin: from your temples to the apples of your cheeks.

Shade is your friend.

It is possible to spend time outside without coming in contact with detrimental UV rays. Whenever possible, seek out shade. If you’re visiting friends for a barbecue, find the shady side of the porch. While at the beach, or gardening in your backyard, use a sun shade or sun umbrella. Move the umbrella with you as you travel through your garden.

Awnings over the porch make outdoor gatherings much cooler. If there are no physical sun shades to be found, take a break from the sun and find a tree with a cool, shaded area.

Schedule outdoor activities appropriately.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, the sun is strongest between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Whenever possible, plan outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon. If you’re taking your grandkids to the beach or lake, keep in mind that water and sand reflect UV radiation. All the more reason to plan your trips before and after the sun is most intense. If you’ll be outside between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., dress appropriately, load up on sunscreen and find shade whenever possible.

Make sunscreen part of your daily ritual.

As you prepare for your day, applying sunscreen should be on your daily to-do list – and this does not only apply to those days where you plan to be outside for great lengths of time.As soon as you step outside and take that short walk to your car, or walk past a picture window in your home, your skin is exposed to the sun.Your sunscreen of choice should block both UVB and UVA (see sidebar) and have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30.Reapply every two hours and immediately after a swim or any form of exercise which causes you to sweat.

There are certain face moisturizers which include SPF for both men and women.These products will be more sensitive on delicate skin and tend to be less oily than a regular sunscreen.While moisturizing and preventing sun damage, the product will also work well under makeup.

Wear protective clothing.

Loose, lightweight long pants and long-sleeve shirts are ideal for sun protection. Ensure garments have a tight weave to avoid harmful rays coming through the clothing.There are brands which sell clothing specifically designed for UV protection. Many outdoor equipment stores may carry these lines for those who know they’ll be spending a lot of time outside.A wide- brimmed hat will protect your hair and face from sun exposure and worse, heat stroke. UV-blocking sunglasses are also important to protect your eyes from over-exposure.

Sun safety doesn’t have to be complicated. Add these simple steps to your daily routine for a wonderful and safe summer! ■

Lindsay Ruck is a lifestyle writer, author and editor whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country.