July is UV Safety month and for good reasons!
We asked our very own Dr. Henry Wong, chair of the UAMS Department of Dermatology, for his thoughts and advice on UV safety:
“When protecting your body from sun damage, the face needs to be protected since it gets more sun UV than the rest of the body. The skin around the eyes is often overlooked and difficult to protect. Skin cancers such as basal cell carcinomas have often been detected close to the eyelids, so it is important to apply sunscreen close to the eye. Another method of protection is to use UV-blocking sunglasses, which will also have the benefit of protecting your eyes and the skin around them. Before you buy sunglasses, check the label to ensure that 99% of UV rays are blocked. Labels marked ‘cosmetic’ block only about 70% of UV rays, which is not sufficient to protect your eyes. If there is no label, you should choose another pair of sunglasses. Also, large or wraparound frames will offer the most protection. This way, the skin around the eyes where it is difficult to apply sunscreen effectively is protected,” said Dr. Henry Wong from the UAMS Dermatology Clinic.
What is your UV IQ?
The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, some of us don't consider the necessity of protecting our skin. It's just smart to take good care of your skin.
It's just smart to take good care of your skin
The need to protect your skin from the sun has become very clear over the years, supported by several studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer. The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and indoor tanning sunlamps can cause many other complications such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles and leathery skin.
How to protect your skin
There are simple, everyday steps you can take to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun.
- Wear proper clothing. Wearing clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants that will protect your skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is very important. Also, remember to protect your head and eyes with a hat and UV-resistant sunglasses. You can fall victim to sun damage on a cloudy day as well as in the winter, so dress accordingly all year round.
- Avoid the burn. Sunburns significantly increase your lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. It is especially important that children be kept from sunburns.
- Go for the shade. Stay out of the sun if possible between the peak burning hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can head for the shade, or make your own shade with protective clothing - including a broad-brimmed hat, for example.
- Use extra caution when near reflective surfaces, like water, snow and sand. Water, snow and sand -even the windows of a building- can reflect the damaging rays of the sun. That can increase your chance of sunburn, even if you’re in what you consider a shady spot.
- Use extra caution when at higher altitudes. You can experience more UV exposure at higher altitudes, because there is less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen. Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. The broad spectrum variety protects against overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The FDA recommends using sunscreens that are not only broad spectrum, but that also have a sun protection factor (SPF) value of at least 15 for protection against sun-induced skin problems.
- Re-apply broad-spectrum sunscreen throughout the day. Even if a sunscreen is labeled as "water-resistant," it must be reapplied throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming. To be safe, apply sunscreen at a rate of one ounce every two hours. Depending on how much of the body needs coverage, a full-day (six-hour) outing could require one whole tube of sunscreen.
When to protect your skin
UV rays are their strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Seek shade during those times to ensure the least amount of harmful UV radiation exposure. When applying sunscreen be sure to reapply to all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
Worth Nothing This Month: Hydration and Heat
Are you feeling thirsty? If so, then your body is already dehydrated! The thirst sensation is a late warning sign of dehydration. A person that only drinks when feeling thirsty is one who lives in a state of chronic dehydration. If you were to spend several hours outdoors in the heat of the summer while thirsty you are setting yourself up for a potential medical emergency, namely a heat stroke. Even if heat stroke is avoided, a sun burn will become more severe to the dehydrated body. Start drinking before feeling thirsty and remember to wear sunscreen with sun exposure.
Dehydration begins at night while sleeping; resting at night forces the body to go several hours without consuming fluids. For this reason, the body is dehydrated from the moment it wakes in the morning. The first thing in the morning is the best time to gauge hydration status and set the body up for staying properly hydrated.
Contrary to what may seem natural, gauging your hydration begins in the bathroom, not the kitchen. The most accurate method for assessing hydration is observing the color of urine. If a person is properly hydrated, their urine should look like clear lemonade. Any darker, and the body is dehydrated. If the urine is dark yellow and has a distinct odor to it, the body is severely dehydrated. Paying attention to urine color from the first bathroom trip in the morning and throughout the day is the easiest way to assess and address proper hydration. You can stop counting the number of glasses of water consumed in a day and follow this method and drink until the body becomes and stays hydrated.
Eight glasses of water a day may work for someone who is not physically active and spends most of the day sitting in an air-conditioned room but it will not cut it for someone who works or plays outside in the heat. Avoid waiting too late; begin and continue drinking before feeling thirsty. –Adam Carter, Fitness Coordinator at the UAMS Fitness Center. Adam holds a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science from Harding University.
Happy July Everyone!
Stay protected, hydrated, and cool in the heat this month! If you have been an avid sunbather for years, it would be a very smart move to visit a dermatologist today to get a baseline for your skin. It’s a good idea to get checked and report any abnormalities as soon as you can. The UAMS Dermatology Clinic has experienced physicians who can help you stay healthy and give you peace of mind.