The act of wearing sunscreen has been embedded in our minds since we were children. However, more than likely, it was accompanied by the warning of our skin aging prematurely, leaving the impression that sun protection was most crucial in younger years.
Protecting your skin from the sun is essential in all stages of life, even as we grow older. In fact, “most cases of skin cancer are found in people older than 65 years of age, but little attention has been given to ways to reduce skin cancer risk among people in this age group.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “nearly 18% of older adults and 15% of sun-sensitive older adults said they didn’t use any kind of sun protection regularly.”
At McClellan Senior Living, located in Anniston, Alabama, we know the importance of sun safety for seniors. Healthy skin is a significant part of overall health and wellness. We are sharing ways that older individuals can protect their skin from the dangers of the sun.
The Importance of Sunscreen
How it Works
There are two main types of sunscreen that protect your skin in different ways. Sunscreen is either composed of physical sunscreen ingredients or chemical sunscreen ingredients. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “while physical sunscreens may be less likely to cause skin irritation than chemical sunscreens, both types have been tested as safe and effective. In fact, many sun protection products available today combine both types of ingredients.”
Physical Sunscreen Ingredients
These sunscreens include the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. This form of sunscreen works by blocking and scattering the sun’s UV rays before they can penetrate your skin.
Chemical Sunscreen Ingredients
These sunscreens include ingredients such as avobenzone and octisalate and protect your skin by absorbing the harmful UV rays before they can damage your skin.
What Different SPFs Mean
“SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.” The higher the number, the longer it will take for the sun’s UVB rays to redden and burn your skin. For instance, when wearing a sunscreen labeled SPF 15, it will take 15 times longer for the sun to redden your skin than if you had no sunscreen on.
The key, however, is to find a sunscreen that is labeled “broad spectrum.” This means that the sunscreen protects your skin from the sun’s UVB rays, the rays that cause burning, and UVA rays, the rays that cause tanning and premature aging. Both types of UV rays are harmful and dangerous to your skin, so you always want to apply a sunscreen that protects against both.
Applying and Reapplying
Sunscreen should be applied daily, but depending on the activity and time of sun exposure, different SPFs can be used. For short amounts of exposure, SPF 15 is advised. This could include activities like taking a pet for a short walk or walking to and from your mailbox. More prolonged exposure, such as hiking or working outside, requires a higher SPF, 30 or higher.
Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin and reapply every two hours. The best practice is to apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before exposure, allowing it to bind to your skin. When swimming or sweating, reapplication may be needed more often.
Sun Protection Without Sunscreen
While sunscreen effectively protects your skin when used as directed, the most effective way to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays is to limit exposure.
This does not mean you cannot go outside! What this means is to cover your skin whenever possible during outdoor activities. Seek out shade, like an umbrella or shade from a tree, when available, and wear protective clothing, including long-sleeved shirts and long pants. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are also effective for protecting the skin on your face and neck from the sun, as well as your eyes.
Sun safety for seniors is just as important as sun safety at any age. At McClellan Senior Living, we promote an independent lifestyle and encourage individuals to lead lives full of enriching activities. Our location offers a mild climate that allows for activities and beautiful days outside, calling for even more reason for sun protective precautions.
To learn more about our historic location or the services we offer, we invite you to contact our McClellan Senior Living team.