When the summer sun beckons us to outdoor activities, it’s important to remember our skin protection. Here are a few sun-safe habits for the whole family.

  • Check your local UV Index. it provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun. The UV Index forecast is issued each afternoon by the National Weather Service and EPA.

  • Seek shade whenever possible. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Follow the shadow rule when in the sun: if your shadow is short, it’s time to abort and seek the shade.

  • Don’t be deceived by color or cost of sunglasses. The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag. Always choose sunglasses labeled as blocking 99-100 percent of UV rays, or “UV absorption up to 400nm.”

  • Buzz off. When combining sunscreen with bug spray, use sunscreen with a higher SPF. Insect repellents reduce sunscreen’s SPF by up to 33 percent.

  • Protect yourself year-round. Use sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 15 or greater. Sunburn doesn’t only happen during the summer! Water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

  • Cover up. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses. Use sunscreen on the exposed areas of your skin whenever possible.

The summer months are a prime time for fun in the sunshine. From hiking to biking and swimming to gardening, the extra daylight hours give us an opportunity to be outside with friends and family. As we plan our outings, though, it’s important to remember that the sun’s rays can be both beneficial and harmful to our skin. Fortunately, as awareness of sun risk continues to grow, protection is becoming easier.

The bright side

While we understand the risks of harmful UV rays, it’s equally as important to recognize the sun’s beneficial powers to provide us with necessary vitamin D.

"On average, children get three times more sun exposure than adults and it only takes one blistering sunburn to double a child's lifetime risk of developing skin cancer."

When we receive the proper amount of vitamin D, our risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes may be reduced. Experts say that a fair-skinned person who is outside in the middle of the day without any sunscreen for about 10 minutes will be given enough radiation to produce 10,000 international units of vitamin D, which equates to a healthy dose of sunlight.  

Soak up safely

Although the sun supplies us with vitamin D, for some individuals that is not enough. The amount of vitamin D a person can intake depends on a variety of factors, such as the season, time of day, amount of sunscreen, body parts exposed and age of an individual. This range of factors puts many people at risk of becoming vitamin D deficient.

Even with moderate sun exposure, 40-75 percent of adults are vitamin D deficient. Medical professionals recommend getting vitamin D from foods and continuing to use sunscreen daily to balance exposure to direct sunlight. You may also consult your physician about vitamin supplements.

The bottom line

Overexposure to the sun can result in skin cancer later in life. On average, children get three times more sun exposure than adults and it only takes one blistering sunburn to double a child's lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

With 1.2 million new diagnoses of melanoma each year, it’s important to protect yourself every day and build the healthy habit of blocking the sun, not the fun!