Sun and the Beach
Copyright , Valerie Giles
Many family traditions include a yearly visit to the beach.
Tucked away in our memories are the smell of coconut oil, the warmth of the sun and sand mixed with cool beach breezes. However, gone are the days of baby oil and metal sun reflectors, replaced with safer sun practices to preserve our natural skin color and condition. Sun protection comes in a variety of options to include sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats, sun protective swimwear and cover-ups.
An important part of your beach planning will be your sun
protection. Sun tanning and trips to your local tanning salon
arenÕt the best idea anymore. ThatÕs because both emit harmful
ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can cause painful sunburn and
may eventually lead to skin blemishes, premature aging of the
skin, cataracts and other eye problems, weakened immune system
and skin cancer. And if the EarthÕs ozone layer continues to
deplete and the approximate rate of four to six percent per
decade there will be more UV radiation reaching our skin.
It is true that light skin is more susceptible to sun damage,
however darker skinned people such as African Americans and
Hispanic Americans can be affected. Everyone should be educated
about the affects of the sun and the steps needed to safer sun
The easiest way to protect you from the sun is simply by
avoiding the sun; the sunÕs rays are strongest between 10am and
3pm. Cloudy days may be deceiving as the clouds only block about
twenty percent of UV radiation, this is also true when swimming
in the water (the UV rays can still reach you).
If you are going to be out in the sun in your bikinis or
swimsuits, either sunscreen or sunblock should be used. Both
sunscreen and sunblock come in creams, lotions, ointments, gels
or wax sticks, and when applied to the skin will reflect, absorb
or scatter either all or at least some of the sunÕs harmful
rays. Currently on the market are some makeup items containing
sunscreen (lipstick being one example). Sunscreen products are
believed to block a large percentage of harmful UV radiation.
The FDA requires that any label of sunscreen products state the
sun protection factor (SPF), the higher the number the longer
a person is able to stay in the sun before burning. It is
recommended to wear at least a sunscreen with SPF 15, the
product should also be applied liberally 15 to 30 minutes before
going outdoors. The sunscreen should be applied to all areas of
skin that will be exposed to include; lips, ears, eyelids (be
careful not to get in eyes), neck, nose, scalp (for those with
thinning hair), feet, and hands. Children under 6 months should
not wear sunscreen (covering their skin is the best bet against
sun exposure), as they might be too sensitive to the ingredients.
Sunscreen should become a regular habit for children whenever
Sunglasses are a very important part of sun protection. Not only
do sunglasses help us see in the glaring sun, but also protect
our eyes from sun damage. Price doesnÕt matter as long as the
glasses are blocking ninety-nine to one hundred percent of UVA
and UVB radiation (it should say on the label). Try and select
sunglasses that protect your eyes from all angles, a large
framed wraparound style is suggested. DonÕt forget to put
sunglasses on your children as well; they can start wearing
sunglasses as early as one year old. It is important to purchase
real protective sunglasses for children, not toy sunglasses.
Even if youÕre wearing sunglasses you might want to put some
sunscreen on your eyelids (be careful not to get the sunscreen
in youÕre eyes), as the sunglasses protect your eyes from UV
rays not the skin around the eyes.
Hats are an easy and fashionable ways to protect youÕre eyes,
ears, nose, neck and scalp from the sun. Try and purchase a hat
with a three- inch brim all the way around the hat if possible.
There are such a wide variety of hats available in styles ranging
from lovely straw hats with wide brims, to cotton hats with brims
and baseball caps (some with material draping down the sides and
back if desired).
Another popular form of sun protection is available in the sun
protective swimwear and cover-ups. This swimwear covers the
areas of the body most sensitive to sunburn, giving effective
sun protection. The swimwear comes in styles similar to a
t-shirt with adjoining shorts, and is a great idea especially
for children. The swimwear and cover-ups boast a SPF 50 (highest
rating for fabric) and most often offers approximately
ninety-eight percent sunblock, the nylon-lycra mix is
lightweight and fast- drying. There are also sunsuits combined
with buoyancy aids (another great idea for children). The sun
protective swimwear, t-shirts, cover-ups and hats are available
in babies, children and adult sizes. Although the protective
swimwear is quite popular it has yet to be approved by the FDA.
Cover-ups should be worn whenever possible if out in the sun.
A cover-up can include any lightweight, loose-fitting, long
sleeved shirts, skirts, pants or robes that provide protection
from the sun. There are toweling robes manufactured that serve
both as a towel and a cover-up after swimming. Almost all
materials and colors absorb or reflect the sunÕs harmful UV
rays. However it must be noted that it is suggested to avoid
wearing wet clothing in the sun, as the sunÕs rays can much
more easily pass through wet clothing.
It is important to avoid artificial tanning as much as possible.
It has long been a belief that the ultraviolet (UV) rays from
tanning beds are harmless as they emit mostly UVA rays and
barely any UVB the rays considered to be most hazardous. However
it has been found that UVA rays may be the cause of the most
serious forms of skin cancer (melanoma). This is scary
considering some people use the tanning beds all year long,
thus increasing their exposure to the harmful rays at an
An alternative to a real tan may come in one of the self-tanning
products available on the market. Self-tanning products are sold
in tanning pills, sunless tanning lotions and sprays, cosmetic
bronzers and extenders and tanning pills. Through a bit of trial
and error you can usually find a product that will produce a
desired look from a subtle glow to a deep dark tan. Caution
should also be exercised with these self-tanning products. In
particular the tanning pills that use carotenoid color additives
which are approved as additives for coloring food but not for
use in tanning pills, if consumed in high levels they may be
harmful. The tanning accelerators using tyrosine have not been
FDA approved and should also be used minimally. The bronzers
and extenders use color additives that are approved by the FDA
and because they wash or wear off quite quickly are quite safe.
Although itÕs important to practice caution while being out and
about in the sun, your day at the beach or lake can still be a
wonderful experience. We just have to take a more careful
approach to our sun seeking ways to ensure our future health.
So pack away your coconut oil and reflectors, replacing them
with sunscreen and great sun protective hats and cover-ups.
Valerie Giles owns and operates Bikinis and Swimsuits , a
swimsuit and resort wear site showcasing bikinis, one-piece
swimsuits, plus size swimwear, tan through, sheer swimsuits,
tankinis and resort wear. Find the perfect swimsuit for every
occasion and every figure type. Quality merchants and best
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