Summertime and the livin’ is easy…
From George Gershwin’s opera lullaby to Ella Fitzgerald’s jazzy soundtrack right up to Sublime’s beach-rock sensation, “Summertime” has been synonymous with sunny, soothing goodness. Then Lana Del Rey came along and introduced “summertime sadness”, and who knows what to think?
Here at Caduceus we prefer the former, brighter version – but it does come with some precautions. So this summer we’ll give you all the health tips you need to keep the livin’ easy and avoid sizzlin’ like a snare.
First, let’s talk sunscreen.
You saw in our monthly newsletter that July is UV Safety Month, which means paying extra attention to protecting your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays (both UVA and UVB). When it comes to sunscreen there are two basic types: chemical and physical.
Chemical sunscreens are like a “sponge” – sinking into your skin and absorbing UVB rays before they get to your tissue. They tend to be more popular because, well, they are simpler to wear and don’t leave filmy residue. But there are some caveats: the chemicals need time to work so apply 30 minutes before sun exposure; they do not filter UVA rays (which can cause wrinkles); some of the chemicals themselves are a problem so look for a “parabens free” label to avoid hormone disrupting effects.
Physical sunscreens act like a “shield” – creating a physical barrier that sits atop the skin blocking both UVA and UVB rays. Because they don’t absorb into skin these are often good choices for people with sensitive skin, for pregnant women, and children. The only real downside to these are the pasty white residue; there’s a reason the lifeguards use them!
Whichever sunscreen you choose there are a few common rules:
- Reapply every 90 minutes
- Use SPF 30 or higher
- Wear sunscreen every day – dermatologists agree that this is the best habit for healthy skin. Many face moisturizers have sunscreen for this reason. Remember UV rays get through office windows, car windows, and are present on cloudy days.
- Any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen – the best sunscreen is the one you wear.
You can see more details about sunscreen and beauty products with the CMO interview in Laguna Beach Magazine.
Second, we’ll review overall summer health.
Wearing sunscreen is just one step to protecting your skin while enjoying the sunshine. Other considerations are just as – or even more – important.
Timing – the best sunscreen is avoiding the sun altogether. Yes we know it’s Southern California and you want to enjoy it! But be mindful of peak sun exposure: 10a to 4p. Also you should download the OSHA Heat Index app to keep track of local alerts.
Remember: everyone is at risk for overheating – especially people over 65 years old, those with medical conditions like asthma and heart disease, and pregnant women. Check out the CMO interview with Emmy-winning meteorologist Miri Marshall talking specifics on heat and health.
Hydration – you probably learned growing up to drink 8 glasses of water per day. Based on good evidence? Not really. If you were looking for a number something between 2-3 liters would be closer to the right answer – but the best advice is to drink water well ahead of thirst. If you’re feeling thirsty you’re already behind. Water containers like glass and ceramic are preferred over plastic bottles especially for daily consumption.
Clothing – in some ways this is the best sunscreen of all. It doesn’t mean wearing big heavy clothing on a hot day. Brimmed hats, light colored long sleeved shirts, cover-ups, and UV-resistant clothing all get the job done.
Air Quality – don’t forget about the air pollution. It’s not just Canadian wildfires blowing smoke our way; some types of air pollution like ozone are greater during extreme heat waves. Download the EPA AirNow app to get real time air quality updates and avoid times of high alert.
Summary: Summertime is one of the best times of the year in Southern California for outdoor fun and you should enjoy it. These health tips can keep the livin’ easy and worry-free while you swim, surf, and generally soak up the sunshine. Wear sunscreen everyday, avoid peak sun exposure, drink tons of water, and track apps for daily alerts on heat and air quality.
Caduceus offers complimentary skin screens to check for a specific mole or mark that could be dangerous. Make an appointment here, or visit one of our future Dinner With The Docs Skin Screen events.
Nathaniel DeNicola, MD, MSHP, FACOG
Chief Medical Officer | Caduceus Medical Group