Nothing says Lowcountry summer quite like the joy of long, peaceful days spent in the sun. When our local beaches are open, the ice cream maker is churning out your favorite flavor, and families are grilling out, experts say it’s also important to take steps to protect skin from the summer sun. Remember the summer months are when ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest. 

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is part of the natural energy produced by the sun and by man-made, artificial sources such as indoor tanning beds, black lights, and halogen lights, according to Elizabeth Goldberg, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, and a spokesperson for The Skin Cancer Foundation.

UV radiation falls in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum with high-energy radiation (i.e., X-rays) on one end and low-frequency radiation (i.e., radio waves) on the other.

The sun emits three different types of UV rays:

Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays penetrate deeper than UVB rays and can cause skin cells to prematurely age and result in skin damage such as sun spots, wrinkles and skin cancer.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays are more intense and are responsible for sunburns and the development of the majority of skin cancers.

Ultraviolet C (UVC) rays are really a danger only to people who work with welding torches or mercury lamps.

Since the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Dr. Goldberg recommends limiting your sun exposure during these hours.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to skin cancer due to the sun exposure over their lifespan. Seniors have lived through many seasons and a lot more time in the sun than younger people.

As people age, their skin is more sensitive to the environment around them. Certain medications that seniors take can cause them to have adverse reactions when they are exposed to sunlight.

There are several simple tools that you can have around the house to help prevent the damage that the sun may cause. Some good items to keep on hand include a baseball cap or wide-brimmed hat, umbrella (not just for a rainy day), sunscreen, bottled water and a visor. Don’t forget to keep extra supplies for when the grandchildren come to visit!

Gather your sun protection supplies in a bag by the door to the outside. Your supply bag will be easy to grab on your way out into the sun. 

Enjoy the sunshine while staying safe and protecting yourself and your loved ones. 

Jennifer Redmond is the family care coordinator for Senior Helpers of Hilton Head Island. jredmond@seniorhelpers.com.