As more Americans prepare to head outdoors for the 4th of July holiday, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology have an important reminder: dress to protect yourself from the sun.
While most people know to take precautions, what might not be general knowledge is that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every day.
There are precautions that can be taken to protect against harmful UV rays. In addition to seeking shade and applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing is essential. However, not all clothing is created equal when it comes to sun protection, say dermatologists. Some garments provide better UV protection than others.
“The right sun-protective outfit provides long-lasting protection and works great for all skin types and colors,” says board-certified dermatologist Omer Ibrahim, MD, FAAD. “The key is to look for dense fabrics and dark or bright colors and pair those with the appropriate accessories.”
To help protect your skin from the sun, Dr. Ibrahim recommends wearing the following items:
1. Lightweight and long-sleeved shirts and pants: It’s important to cover up as much of your skin as possible when spending time outdoors. When selecting clothing, avoid fabrics with a loose or open weave, such as lace. In addition, dark colors offer more protection than light colors. For example, a long-sleeved denim shirt provides an SPF of about 1,700, while a white t-shirt provides an SPF of about 7. In addition, if you’re at the beach or pool, keep in mind that dry clothing offers more sun protection than wet clothing.
2. Sunglasses with UV protection: Sunglasses are an important part of your sun-protective wardrobe. When purchasing sunglasses, always look for lenses that offer UV protection. Lenses that appear dark do not necessarily offer UV protection, so make sure to read the label before purchasing. In addition, large-framed or wraparound sunglasses offer more sun protection than aviators, for example, so be sure to consider that when selecting your sunglasses.
3. A wide-brimmed hat: A hat is a simple and effective way to cover up your face and neck. When selecting a hat, choose one that has a wide brim, which will protect your ears, as well as your head and neck. Avoid baseball hats or straw hats with holes, as these are not as effective in protecting you outdoors.
4. Shoes that cover your feet: However, if you’re wearing sandals or flip-flops or going barefoot, be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed skin.
“In addition to wearing sun-protective clothing, it’s important to seek shade and apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing,” says Dr. Ibrahim. “If you have questions about how to protect your skin from the sun and prevent skin cancer, contact a board-certified dermatologist.”
These tips are demonstrated in "What to Wear to Protect Your Skin from the Sun", a video posted to the AAD website. And earlier this year, the AAD launched a national public awareness campaign encouraging Americans to #PracticeSafeSun to protect themselves and their families from skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. The public can help raise awareness of skin cancer by using this hashtag on social media when sharing AAD resources and photos of how they use sun protection outdoors.