On average, August is the sunniest month of the year in Florida. Although sun safety is a year-round concern for citizens of the Sunshine State, now is a great a time to be thinking about your exposure to UV rays – especially for older adults.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 40-50% of Americans who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once in their life. According to the CDC, older adults are the most at-risk demographic with the majority of new diagnoses of melanoma occurring in people aged 60 and older. Additionally, older people are more likely to be prescribed medications that increase their sensitivity to UV rays. Fortunately, there are many ways you can stay safe and healthy while enjoying Florida’s summer sun.
Use sunscreen every day
Ask any dermatologist and they’ll likely tell you that the number one tip for healthy skin is to wear sunscreen. Unfortunately, hardly anyone does. A survey from the American Academy of Dermatology found that 4 out of 5 adults know that sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours when they’re outdoors, but only 1 in 3 make the actual effort. Additionally, while 77% are likely to use sunscreen at the beach or a pool, only 41% say they do when they’re gardening or working outside on their homes.
If you are planning on being outside (even on cloudy days) for an hour or longer, make sure to apply sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30 or higher and reapply every 1-2 hours. However, if you’re the type that just hates the feeling of greasy sunscreen on your skin, give international sunscreens a try.
Countries like Japan and Australia have sunscreens with active ingredients that are not yet available in the United States due to the slow process of earning FDA approval. Many of these foreign sunscreens feel better on the skin, are more compatible with makeup, and are just as effective (or better) as US sunscreens at protecting from UV rays. If you use sunscreen that’s more convenient and comfortable for your skin, you’ll be more likely to wear it every day.
Sunscreen isn’t the only tool you have to protect your skin from the sun. Physical barriers like clothing block UV rays and reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to stay protected. Instead of tank tops and shorts, opt for loose-fitting long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
Cotton clothes are fine for sun protection. But because they tend to trap heat and hold on to sweat, they may not be comfortable for long excursions outside. Activewear made with synthetic fabrics like nylon, acrylic, and polyester are excellent UV blockers, and their moisture-wicking properties are better than cotton at keeping you cool and dry in the sun. Check out your local sporting goods or outdoor recreation store for a wide selection of these types of clothes.
Finally, don’t forget eyewear! Eye health is especially important as you age, and prolonged sun exposure can irritate your eyes and cause them to deteriorate faster. To keep your eyes sun-safe, wear a pair of sunglasses when you go out. If you regularly wear prescription glasses, ask your doctor about transition lenses that tint themselves when exposed to UV rays.
Visit a Dermatologist Annually
Most people only visit the dermatologist when they notice changes or issues with their skin. That’s a good idea. But an even better idea is to visit your dermatologist every year – especially if you live in a place as sunny as Florida. This way, they can track changes to your skin over time and catch any signs of skin cancer or other conditions earlier.