Enjoy the summer without getting burned



July 17, 2015

Slippery Rock, Pa. -  Legendary Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich once penned that if she were ever asked to deliver a commencement address, her advice to graduates would be this: wear sunscreen.

The column, which went viral, was erroneously attributed to Kurt Vonnegut who in debunking the rumor commented, while the words weren't his, the advice was still good.



Renee Bateman, health promotion coordinator for Slippery Rock University's Student Health Center, couldn't agree more.

"Many people do not realize their skin can be damaged quickly, in as little as 15 minutes, by the sun's ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen works by absorbing, reflecting or scattering sunlight. Exposure to the sun can cause cancerous skin lesions, fine and course wrinkles, freckles, discoloration of the skin and the destruction of elastic and collagen tissues," she said.

It's important to protect yourself from UV rays. The Center for Disease Control advises that if you're going to be out and about, you should wear protective clothing, long sleeves and pants, whenever possible. They recommend that you always wear a hat that has a brim all the way around and sunglasses to protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around your eyes from UV rays.

"Even if you take all those precautions," Bateman said, "you still need to use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF 15. And, you need to reapply it frequently."

Although we've been experiencing rain and cloudy skies lately, that doesn't mean you should forego sunscreen.

"Actually, it is important to use sunscreen on cloudy days as well. Sometimes cloudy days have a higher "burn-risk" because people are unaware of the amount of sun exposure they are receiving," Kris Benkeser, SRU director of the Student Health Center said. "Winter or summer you need to remember, clouds do not equal sun protection."

Benkeser said the Health Center sees a number of nasty sunburn cases, especially following the first warm days of spring and when students return from spring break.

"I think students are so excited to be out in the sun, minus the coats, hats and gloves, plus the sun feels so good, they just forget sunscreen," she said.

If you overindulge in sun worshiping and find yourself hurting from a burn, there are several remedies you can pursue. "We recommend cool compresses, hydrating lotions and over-the-counter remedies such as Solarcane. And obviously, we'd advise the person to avoid any further exposure to the sun," Benkeser said.

"If you develop blistering or drainage from blisters, fever or any signs of dehydration such as nausea, lightheadedness or muscle cramping, you should seek medical attention immediately," she said.

People often think that using a tanning bed will help them avoid the problems associated with sun tanning. Not so, says Bateman.

"The CDC reports that indoor tanning exposes users to two types of UV rays, UVA and UVB. These rays damage the skin and can lead to cancer. Every time you tan you increase your risk of getting skin cancer. Indoor tanning also causes premature skin aging, changes skin texture and, if eye protection is not used, increases the risk of potentially blinding eye diseases," she said.

"My mantra to students who think indoor tanning is without is risk is this: Tanning indoors is not safer than tanning in the sun; a base tan is not a safe tan; and indoor tanning is not a safe way to get vitamin D."

So what's a person to do if they want that bronze glow that comes with tanning?

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends using a light pink blush for pale skin tones, or a deeper blush or bronzer if you have a darker skin tone, to brighten your complexion and give yourself a radiant glow.

You can also try a sunless self-tanner.

"Self-tanning products are available as lotions, creams, sprays, and pledgets (towels or wipes). Commercial preparations typically contain between 3 and 5 percent DHA, a sugar molecule that bronzes the very top layer of the skin. The concentrated amounts of DHA used in sunless tanning preparations are considered non-toxic and noncarcinogenic," according to Dr. Melanie Palm of the Skin Cancer Foundation.

"Self-tanners provide some minimal protection from the sun's ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, but should always be used in conjunction with broad spectrum (UVA/UVB-blocking) sunscreens, preferably with an SPF of 30 or greater for extended stays outdoors. If you use a self-tanner with sunscreen, choose one with an SPF of at least 15 and be sure to reapply a separate broad spectrum, SPF15+ sunscreen after two hours outdoors. Use one ounce (two tablespoons) to cover the entire body," she said.

"I encourage patients to "love the skin [color] they are in," but if you're dead set on being darker, reach for the sunless tanning bottle. Be sun-safe, and enjoy summer," Palm said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Rita Abent | 724.738.2091 | rita.abent@sru.edu