Slip, Slap, Slop

by Jeannie Dalmas

That's what they say "Down Under" in the blistering sun of Australia. "Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, and slop on some sunscreen." Even in Hawaii, where people spend a lot of time outdoors year-round, Hawaiians teach their young children how to be "Sun Smart". So why do we still think we can spend all day outside in the sun and have no ill effects? The fact is that people need to wear sunscreen every day, year-round, even on cloudy day, since 80% of the sun's rays can penetrate light clouds, mist, and fog. It's been suggested that everyone, no matter what their skin type, use sunscreen, as well as other protection against the sun. Even people with dark complexions can get a sunburn, with is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer. Even children should receive appropriate protection from the sun.

Sunscreens are not the total answer, they are just one part of sun safety. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat (or any hat), a lightly-colored long sleeved shirt, and long pants offers greater sun protection. And don't forget your sunglasses (one's with 100% UV protection). Remember to use lip screens too (yes, your lips get sunburned.) Avoid or limit your sun exposure during peak hours between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. EST when the rays are strongest. Try to stay in the shade, under an umbrella or canvas tarp, whenever possible. And when you are outside apply liberal amounts of sunscreen.

Many people fail to apply sunscreen correctly. Apply the sunscreen to all exposed body areas one hour before sun exposure. (And guys, don't forget the tops of your ears and bald scalp areas.) The sunscreen should be reapplied generously every 1 2 hours, and especially after swimming or heavy perspiring. So put a lot on. Put it on thick. People complain that they used sunscreen and still got burned. They either didn't apply enough or have not reapplied it liberally every hour while being in the sun. Sunscreens labeled with an SPF of 15 or greater provide the best protection.

Remember sun damage is cumulative over a lifetime. Studies have shown the cumulative sun exposure can cause premature aging of the skin, destroys elasticity, contributes to the development of wrinkles and "sun spots", and sets the stage for skin cancer. These can all be prevented with a change in attitude and behavior.

So don't think that you can slather on the sunscreen, recline on lounge chairs, and bake for hours mistakenly thinking your are fully protected from the ravages of the sun. Sunscreens are not a chemical suit of armor. So use some common sense practicing sun safety and remember what the Australian's say -- "Slip, slap, and slop".

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