How to Keep Your Skin Safe in the Arizona Sun

Jul 11, 2018

Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

by Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

Summertime often means longer days and 100-degree temperatures here in Arizona. We often turn to the pool or travel north to keep cool and enjoy the sunshine. Keep your skin healthy by reading on for tips on Arizona sun safety.
Both UVA and UVB rays are strongly linked to skin cancer. In addition,

  • UVA rays also cause wrinkling and aging of the skin. 
  • UVB rays cause most sunburns. They can also cause cataracts and immune suppression. The skin cancer melanoma may be associated with severe UVB sunburns before the age of 20. UVB rays give our bodies vitamin D when they reach our skin. However, most people get enough of this vitamin through a healthy diet.

Since we live in a place that has an average of around 300 days of sunshine per year, we need to protect ourselves from harmful UV rays all year, but especially in the summer when UV rays are strongest.
It’s also important to know that when it’s cloudy, UVB rays are the ones more likely to be blocked. So, while you may not get sunburned, you a still get exposed to UVA rays. Protect yourself by wearing sunscreen even on cloudy days.
SPF Numbers
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the numbers represent the amount of UV rays blocked — by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%, and SPF 50 blocks 98%.
Buying and Using Sunblock
Only use broad-spectrum sunblock: it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Most people do not apply enough sunblock. Be sure to read the sunblock bottle for best practices, but a good rule of thumb is a shot glass worth of sunblock should be used. The less you apply, the less protected you are.
For most sunblock, you need to apply 20 minutes before going outside so the chemicals have time to soak into your skin and create a barrier. Sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide protect as soon as they’re applied. Reapply sunblock at least every two hours or more depending on how much you’re sweating or swimming as it usually rubs off when you towel dry.
Clothing for Sun Protection
Clothing can offer some protection from UV rays. The fabric’s tightness of weave, the weight, type of fiber, and even the color impact your amount of protection. If you can hold your clothing in front of the sun and see your hand behind the fabric, then you should find a tighter weave fabric for better protection. Darker colors tend to be more effective in blocking out the sun. The older — and more stretched out — fabric is, the less protection it gives. When fabric gets wet it can lose 50% of its protection.
Additional Tips:

  • Check the daily UV report.
  • Avoid being outside during the three hours before and after noon. A good rule of thumb is if you can’t see your shadow you should move to the shade.
  • Babies should always be in the shade because their skin is more susceptible to sunburn.
  • Remember higher altitudes, the reflection from snow, sand, and water, and vicinity to the equator can all increase UV exposure.
  • If you’re wearing a baseball hat, don’t forget to apply sunblock to your ears and neck.
  • When picking sunglasses, opt for 100% UV protection and full-coverage sunglasses to avoid sun peeking through on the sides.
  • Protect your lips with an SPF lip balm.

If you implement these Arizona sun safety tips, your summer won’t be ruined by a sunburn and you can relax by the pool guilt free. If you find yourself with an injury this summer, make an appointment at one of our many locations.

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