Sun Safety Tips for Memorial Day Weekend

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United State, yet also one of the most preventable. To help curb this, the National Council on skin cancer prevention named the Friday before Memorial Day “Don’t Fry Day” as a way to highlight sun safety.

Sunscreen is the most common form of sun protection. With the start of tanning season, the Environmental Working Group released a list of the best and worst sunscreens.

According to the group’s guide, just 25% of sunscreens on the market are effective in both protecting your skin from the sun and free of potentially harmful chemicals. EWG says your sunscreen should not contain oxybenzone and a form of vitamin A called retinyl palmitate. However, the American Academy of Dermatology says these chemicals have been tested and found to be safe.

Experts say sunscreens labeled broad spectrum are the best choices, but as dermatologist Dr. John Sowell of Dermatology Associates in Huntsville points out, the most important part is applying them correctly.

“Most of us don’t use one ounce on our body, most of us use a fraction of that, so we think we’re getting SPF 50,” said Sowell. “If we just put it on one-fourth as thick as it needs to be it may be SPF 10 or even less.”

When shopping for sunscreens look for ones labeled broad spectrum. These products help protect people from both types of ultraviolet radiation.

Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, but generally no higher than SPF 50. Higher SPFs can lead to a false sense of sun security.

Also be cautious when it comes to labels boasting “waterproof” sunscreen or “all-day protection.” The FDA recently banned these phrases from labels. The ban will go into effect on June 18.

You also need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after you come out of the water. Make sure to use one ounce.

Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses and other protective clothing to best protect yourself against UVA rays, which are the leading cause of melanoma.

Doctors recommend that you also avoid the sun during peak hours, which is from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. A recent study has suggested that the same ultraviolet dose in the morning is not nearly as dangerous as in the afternoon.

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