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Tips on how to soak up the sunshine safely

student relaxing on the Quad

The Quad is the perfect place to relax in the shade.

With the seasons shifting from winter to spring and the sun rays becoming stronger, it’s important to add sun safety to your daily routine. Keep the following safety tips and information in mind.

What makes the sun harmful?
Many people have the goal of getting a bronzed body by laying out, engaging in outdoor activities, or traveling to the beach. Constant ultraviolet (UV) ray exposure leaves its mark. UV rays are light rays given off from the sun that are intense and penetrate the skin. Not only does this happen on sunny days but cloudy ones as well. Sun safety has turned into a real concern in recent years because precautions are rarely implemented on a daily basis. This can lead to premature skin aging, eye damage, skin cancers, and even a suppressed immune system.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from tanning beds is classified as a carcinogen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization, according to the EPA.

The following are suggestions to help steer clear of scorching skin and the effects of too much sun exposure this season.

Protect your skin with clothing
Whether it’s a day at the pool, on the beach, or being active, make sure to cover your skin up as much as you can in the sun. Wearing hats and sunglasses is very important because they cover up your eyes, face, and head, which are the most sensitive areas on your body that come in contact with the sun. Hats and sunglasses can be worn without constricting fun activities. Although most clothing cannot block out all dangerous UV rays, it is important to use some protection and wear T-shirts, cover-ups, or pants during downtime to block out those harmful UV rays.

Read, use, and repeat
Sunscreen is essential to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Be sure to read the label and directions carefully before applying. Follow the directions carefully and remember to reapply often, especially if swimming or sweating. Concerned about chemicals in sunblock? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of safe sunscreens.

Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps
Natural sunlight can be damaging enough, but directly receiving artificial UV rays can cause more serious and faster growing effects. There are many ways to receive that bronze look without having your body suffer. Go to your local drug store to look at the array of lotions, wipes, and creams to achieve the perfect tan. Another popular option is spray tans, which are available at tanning salons for a reasonable price.

Sun exposure and vitamin D
Although vitamin D is important to have in your body and can be received from sunlight, it is important to understand the difference between the various methods of getting vitamin D. Sunlight is not the most safe or effective solution. The best ways to receive vitamin D is by drinking orange juice; eating fatty fish, canned tuna, and cereal with fortified milk; or taking supplements.

If you are concerned about the effects of sun exposure, please visit your health care provider or make an appointment with Student Health Services.

Additional online resources
Steps for a skin self-check
Skin cancer facts
Be safe in the sun
Sun safety tips from the Environmental Protection Agency
American Academy of Dermatology