How to Protect Yourself in the Sun: Tips for Safely Enjoying the OBX
Now that summer is in view, most of us couldn’t think of anything better than spending our days on the wide sandy beaches of the Outer Banks. In addition to the beach, the warm summer weather is also perfect for other outdoor Outer Banks activities including kayaking, sightseeing in downtown Manteo, climbing Jockey's Ridge and more.
While getting outside and enjoying some well-deserved fun in the sun is one of the best parts of summer, it can also be one of the most hazardous. Overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to serious skin and health conditions - if you're not careful about protecting yourself. Luckily, if you utilize the right skincare strategies and follow our beach safety tips, you'll be able to safely enjoy your Outer Banks vacation.
Here are some tips to get started...
Stay in the shade.
Whether you're out for a day at the beach or climbing Jockey's Ridge, constant, direct exposure to the sun's rays is never good. You can greatly reduce your risk of skin damage by seeking refuge under an umbrella, pavilion or shady tree throughout the day. By alternating between sun and shade, you'll help limit the harmful effects of the sun's UV rays so you can keep enjoying the wonderful array of Outer Banks activities.
- Remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Try to stay in the shade if you are outside during these times..
Choose the right sunscreen.
Sunscreen is one of the best ways of protecting yourself from the sun. The sun's UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minute, so make sure to use sunscreen on all exposed skin.
Sunscreens are best if they are broad spectrum and have a SPF 30+ and should protect you from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Put on sunscreen 20 minutes before being exposed to the sun and get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days and after swimming or sweating. Do not forget to apply sunscreen to your lips, ears, feet, hands, bald spots or the part in your hair, and the back of the neck. Also, apply it under bathing suit straps, necklaces, bracelets, and sunglasses. You should put on one ounce of sunscreen every two hours — one ounce is about the size of a ping pong ball. Use more if you are swimming or sweating. A small tube containing three to five ounces of sunscreen might only be enough for one person during a day at the beach.
Note: The United States Food and Drug Administration has announced significant changes to sunscreen product labels that will help consumers decide how to buy and use sunscreen and allow them to protect themselves and their families from sun-induced damage more effectively.
In addition to picking the right level of protection, you should never use any sunblock that you may have purchased during the previous year. Over time, sunscreen loses its effectiveness and you could be at great risk for skin damage - even when covered in old sunscreen.
- Apply sunscreen every day, even in the wintertime. Remember to reapply every two hours, especially if you are swimming or sweating.
- When choosing a sunblock, make sure to choose one that has UVA or Broad Spectrum protection, because if it doesn’t, then it may only protect you from UVB rays.
- Buy a daily moisturizer for your face that contains an SPF of at least 15. The skin on your face is more sensitive to sun damage than the rest of your body. These moisturizers are made by almost any brand that you can find in drugstores.
Cover up with clothing.
When you're outside for much of the day, the clothing you decide to wear can have an enormous impact on your level of sunlight protection. While apparel of any kind will provide some level of relief, certain garments are more effective than others.
- Choose clothing made of thick material or dark colors, because these fabrics contain a higher SPF than lightweight, light colored cloth. Alternatively, you can wash your clothes with Sun Guard, which gives clothes an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of 30.
- Wet clothing leaves you more exposed than dry - something to consider when you're by the pool or at the beach.
- In addition to sunscreen, give your scalp, face, and eyes extra protection by wearing a hat.
For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
- If wearing extra clothing isn't practical, try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. But keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.
Becareful near water and sand.
Water and sand can reflect the damaging rays of the sun and increase your chance of sunburn.
Watch the UV Index.
The UV Index provides important information that can help you plan your Outer Banks activities to avoid getting too much of the sun’s rays. You can check the UV Index on most weather websites or at the Environmental Protection Agency's Sun Protection site.