Here comes the sun! Finally, after a long, cold winter, many of us are shedding our coats and mittens and getting ready to enjoy some long, lazy days in the sun.
Of course, with all that exposure to the sun's harmful rays, we increase our risk of skin damage. But don't worry. You don't need to hide in your basement to stay safe.
Here are seven great ways to protect yourself while enjoying the great outdoors.
Sunscreen can help protect your skin from the sun's rays for short periods of time, but you do have to be choosy about what you slather on. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), 73 percent of sunscreen products don't actually work. The ones that do need to be reapplied regularly (every two hours and always after sweating or water exposure). Worse: Many contain ingredients that are harmful to your health. Check out these sunscreen recommendations from the experts at EWG to find a product that will work when and where you need it.
Dress for success
If you want to add an extra layer of protection over your sunscreen, covering up with a hat and lightweight clothing is a good way. But not all clothing offers the same level of protection. Look for long-sleeved shirts and full-length pants made from fabric that either has a naturally tight weave (like denim) or has been treated with ultraviolet blockers. According to SkinCancer.org, the best way to test the protective properties of an article of clothing is to hold it up to the light. If the light gets through, so will the sun's rays.
Eat this/Don't eat that
Sunscreen and protective clothing do a great job of providing a barrier between your skin and the sun's rays. Some foods also can provide protection from the sun. Tomatoes, watermelon, green tea, foods high in saturated fats (such as butter and whipping cream), salmon, sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, asparagus and chocolate (yes, chocolate!) have all been linked to improved sun protection, while celery, citrus, dill and foods that are processed or high in sugar may promote skin damage with sun exposure.
Take a drink
This 2011 study by Spanish researchers found that flavonoids found in grapes may block the chemical changes that cause skin damage. Does that mean you should ditch your sunscreen and guzzle the wine? Probably not. But it might make happy hour that much sweeter when you know that your cocktail is giving your body an extra boost at fighting sun damage.
Check your meds
Did you know that certain medications may make you more likely to burn in the sun? These "sun-sensitizing" drugs can also aggravate skin conditions such as eczema and herpes and worsen the symptoms caused by certain autoimmune disorders. There are dozens of medications that can cause sensitivity to the sun, including some antidepressants, antibiotics, antihistamines and retinoids. Check your medication bottles or talk to your doctor.
Pimp your ride
While many people cover up or slather on the sunscreen when they're outside, most don't think about sun protection while driving. Yet, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 53 percent of skin cancers in the U.S. occur on people's left sides. Why? That's the side nearest the window while driving. If you log a lot of hours behind the wheel, you might want to consider applying a UV-protective tint to your car windows. Laws vary by state on how much you're allowed to tint, so be sure to check out your state regulations.
If you're already wearing some sort of fitness tracker to count your steps or monitor your heart rate or track your sleep patterns (or all of the above), you can use a tracker that gauges your sun exposure and lets you know when it's time to reapply sunscreen or head for the shade. The Raymio (shown above) can detect sun exposure from all angles (not just when the sun is directly above) and compares these figures to your skin type to provide alerts about when it's time to get indoors. Other wearable options include the Microsoft Band2, SunZapp, June, Rooti ClipMate and L'Oreal's UV patch.