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Hot weekends are around the corner, so let the BBQs, beach trips, and parties begin! While enjoying the sun, remember to take simple steps to protect yourself from harmful ultra violate (UV) rays. These pesky rays can cause more harm to your body than a simple sunburn; overtime they can accelerate the appearance of aging by causing wrinkles and age spots to appear on the skin prematurely.[1] UV Rays can also cause eye cataracts; a clouding of the lens that can impair vision. According to the World Health Organization, prolong exposure to UV rays can lead to a weakened immune system. [2]Those exposed to the rays are unable to keep the Herpes virus under control, which can result in a cold sore breakout. Of course, we all know that UV ray exposure can lead to skin cancers: actinic keratoses, carcinoma, and melanoma.[3] Thankfully, there are multiple affordable products designed to protect against the sun’s UV rays.

Must Haves

Whether it’s gardening outside, a day at the beach, or a summer festival, wearing these products are a must. Hats provide protection for your scalp, hair, and eyes. Anything from a fedora to a cowboy hat will do the trick. Sun glasses are a great accessory and provide valuable eye protection. When purchasing sun glasses, make sure that they have a sticker with the “100% UV protection” label. Even glasses with a darker tint do not guarantee full UV protection.[4] Cover up with linen pants or a maxi skirt this summer. It is no wonder why linen clothes have become a summer staple. Linen is known as the most breathable fabric, making it the ideal clothing material to beat the summer heat. Wearing pants and maxi skirts adds a physical barrier to protect against the sun. Lastly, try to limit your time in the sun. Always look for shade and reapply sunscreen throughout the day. It is important to remember that UV rays can penetrate through clouds and cause sun damage. This means that even on rainy or overcast days, you should wear sunscreen daily- regardless of the weather. Even if you don’t plan on staying out in the sun all day, it may be a good idea to wear sunscreen; remember that sun damage can occur with as little as 15 minutes of exposure.

Consumer Beware

Wearing makeup infused with SPF alone will not offer enough protection from the sun. Sometimes make-up companies will upcharge consumers by marketing foundations as a 2-1 deal, however you should not buy into the myth that you can skip sunscreen if you have a foundation with SPF. To reap the benefits of the SPF from a foundation with SPF, a person would need to apply a full nickel-sized amount on their face- every two hours. Most people who wear makeup don’t apply that much product and will not reapply their foundation throughout the day. There is nothing wrong with purchasing foundation with SPF, so long as consumers have realistic expectations about the product and apply sunscreen before their makeup.

Aloe Vera to the Rescue

Everyone inevitably experiences at least one sunburn in their life. The best product to provide soothing relief is aloe Vera. This plant has been used for over 6,000 years, tracing back to Egypt- now used world-wide. The clear, gel-like product found inside the leaves can be applied topically onto the affected areas. Aloe Vera products are relatively inexpensive and may work just as well as a live plant.

Blanca Gutierrez is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.