Sun safe and skin wise

Cumulative & Irreversible

Living in Hawaii, it’s hard to avoid the sun. When I was young, I didn’t worry about getting sunburned – aside from my annoying habit to burn and peel. Then my mom told me that damage from the sun is “cumulative and irreversible” – a phrase I remember to this day.

I don’t use sunscreen as often as I should, but I have changed what I do outdoors. I keep to the shade as much as possible. I cut down on beach-time. I try to avoid being outdoors during the hottest parts of the day. It hasn’t saved my skin – probably most of the damage was done when I was younger – but think that I’ve prevented further skin damage.

I’d like to take a few minutes to remind everyone to take sun safety seriously.

Did you know that… skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer among young adults aged 15-29 years old? One in five Americans will develop skin cancer? Read the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s “Just the Facts:  about Skin Cancer in Hawaii” (April 2014) for more Hawaii-specific facts.

UV Index

According to the National Weather Service, Honolulu is consistently rated an 11 (Extreme) on the Ultraviolet (UV) Index. The UV Index forecasts the amount of skin-damaging UV radiation expected to reach the earth’s surface at the time when the sun is highest in the sky. It can range from 0 (at night) to 15 or 16 (at solar noon in the tropics at high elevations under clear skies). The higher the UV Index, the greater the dose rate of skin damaging (and eye damaging) UV radiation, and the smaller the time it takes before skin damage occurs.

There’s an easy way to remember to protect your skin. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention reminds us to “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap” when we’re outdoors. That means slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen (choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every two hours), slap on a wide-brimmed hat, and wrap on sunglasses (with UV protection). Even on overcast days, there’s a risk of sun exposure, so stay in the shade as much as possible, especially between 10 am and 2 pm.

Did you know that polar bears have special eyelids that act like sunglasses? Or that elephants use dirt and hay to protect their skin from the sun? Head to the zoo and teach kids about animals and sun safety at the same time. The EPA has a fun fact sheet about “sunwise” animals, as well as coloring pages that reveal how hippos, pigs, turtles, meerkats, and camels protect themselves from the sun.

Are you taking care of your skin? How do you stay safe in the sun?

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