There are so many health benefits you’ll get to immerse yourself in, as a result of having your own backyard swimming pool! However, there are also some added risks connected with spending more time around the water and out in the sun. Maybe you’re thinking that, of course, you make sure everyone has some sunscreen on when they need it. But when, exactly, do they need it? What kind is it? Is it enough? Why or why not?
In our previous post, we looked at 3 common myths about sunscreen, relating to cloudy days, dark skin tones (and tans), and so-called “waterproof” brands. We also mentioned the idea that sunburn is not the biggest issue from which you want to protect yourself and your children. Although some sunburns can be severe and cause other issues, a more common problem is that a severe sunburn or multiple sunburns can increase a person’s chances of getting skin cancer, which can be deadly.
Misconception #4: With Sunscreen, Your Sun Protection Is Complete
Just as your water safety or drowning prevention plan should have multiple layers of protection, so should your sun protection plan. No matter how great your chosen sunscreen is and how often and thoroughly you apply it, it will be insufficient; it’s just one layer, after all. Dr. DeHaan recommends considering sunscreen to be a sort of last-ditch effort at sun protection, there just in case all the other layers of sun protection fail you. So what’s her suggestion for the first layer? Avoiding exposure to direct sunlight – at least during the peak hours of the day.
If you do choose to be out between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., you could add a layer of shade, either natural (such as trees) or artificial (such as a canopy or umbrella). After that, another recommended layer of protection can come in the form of lightweight clothing that covers all extremities as well as a wide-brimmed hat to shade the head, neck, and eyes. (Sunglasses that filter out all UV rays will offer added benefits as well.) After you have those bases covered, you can (and should) add sunscreen to any exposed skin and re-apply every 2 hours, at least.
Misconception #5: All Sunscreen Is Created Equal
Even if you’re using sunscreen as one of many layers of protection, you should know that sunscreens vary greatly in their effectiveness. You want to look for sunscreen that specifically offers “broad spectrum” protection as well as an SPF between 15 and 50. The designation of “broad spectrum” means that it will protect from both kinds of ultraviolet rays – UVA and UVB – which can cause damage to the skin. You can view lists of sunscreens that are safe for both humans and our environment, from the nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group.
When it comes to SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, many people think that the higher the number, the better the protection. However, there’s not evidence that an SPF over 50 really makes a difference. Regardless of your sunscreen’s SPF, it’s important to re-apply it often, especially if you’re spending time in the water. (Spray-on sunscreen can be less effective than its SPF denotes, because it can be easier to miss parts and harder to achieve consistent coverage.)
Continue reading with Part 3.
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