Have you been spending your weekends exploring new cycling routes and hiking trails? Or perhaps chilling by the beach while watching your little ones play with the sand?
There has been an uptick in outdoor activities amid the pandemic as more people take a breather after a long day or week of being cooped up at home.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin damage
Having fun outdoors can be beneficial for both our physical and mental health but many of us tend to forget about taking care of the largest organ of the human body – our skin.
Prolonged sun exposure without taking proper precautions can lead to undesired consequences such as skin pigmentation, premature ageing of the skin (cue wrinkles and sagging skin) and skin cancer. So the next time you venture outdoors, be sure to follow these 5 tips to keep your skin protected from harmful UV rays.
1. Choose the right sunscreen
Both UV Type A (UVA) and UV Type B (UVB) rays from the sun can cause skin damage. UVA rays are associated with skin aging while UVB rays primarily cause sunburns.
It is important to choose a broad spectrum sunscreen which will screen out both UVA and UVB rays. You should also ensure that your sunscreen has a minimum Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher and is water-resistant to withstand sweat.
Don’t forget your little ones too! Children have more delicate and sensitive skin than adults. For babies younger than six months, Dr Amy Wang (Specialist in Paediatric Medicine, Raffles Children’s Centre) recommends using a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 on small areas of the body such as the face, if protective clothing and shade are unavailable.
Sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are preferred for infants and children with sensitive skin as they cause less skin irritation.
2. Apply your sunscreen correctly
Apply a thick layer of sunscreen on all exposed skin at least 30 minutes before going out.
Some of the commonly forgotten areas include the neck, ears and eyelids. If you are wearing sandals, slippers or going barefoot, remember to apply sunscreen on your feet too!
Sunscreen wears off. When participating in extensive outdoor activities, reapply sunscreen to your entire body every two hours, or after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
3. Don’t forget to protect your lips
Your lips have one of the thinnest layer of skin on the body and only produce a small amount of melanin (a pigment that can protect your skin against UV radiation).
Hence, this delicate organ is vulnerable to sun damage and should be given some tender loving care. The best way to protect your lips from the sun is to use a lip balm with a minimum of SPF 30.
4. Deck out in your sun-protective accessories
When possible, wear cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body, such as lightweight cotton pants and long-sleeved shirts. Darker-coloured clothes may also offer better UV protection than lighter-coloured ones.
Forget the straw hats! You can have it on for just a minute or two to capture that perfect “Insta worthy” picture but when selecting a hat, we advise one that has a wide brim which will shade your face, ears and the back of your neck. If possible, get one made of a tightly woven fabric (e.g. canvas) which works best to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays.
Lastly, top it off with a pair of sunglasses with lenses that have 99 to 100 per cent UV absorption. It can protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes from sun exposure and even reduce the risk of cataracts.
5. Limit time spent in direct sunlight
Seek the shade whenever possible. Otherwise, avoid the mid-day sun between 10am to 4pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest and most harmful. Well, the bright side is that you may be able to feast your eyes with the beautiful sunrise or sunset hues in the early morning or late evening.
Sunscreen works best with other protective measures
Sunscreens, although effective, are not completely foolproof. After slathering your sunscreen lotion, bear in mind to wear sun-protective clothing whenever possible and limit your time spent under the sun. Do all these even on cloudy days since most of the sun’s UV rays (up to 80%) can still get through the clouds and damage your skin.
The UV rays should not deter you from heading outdoors such as to get the exercise you need to strengthen your immunity (you can read more about exercise and immunity here). With proper precautions, you can stay safe in the sun and say hello to beautiful, healthy skin.