Before I’m inundated with comments and complaints from anyone reading this, please allow me to explain the reason for the title. I am absolutely and emphatically not recommending the wearing of a swimsuit or any other type of garment (unless you legally must). What I am encouraging everyone to do is to make sure that you cover yourself completely in sunscreen before you venture outside in the sun. No matter where you live: the Arctic Circle or Asia, Australia or Africa, Europe or North and South America. Protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun, regardless of location, gender or race.
It doesn’t matter the season of the year where you live. The sun’s rays never disappear completely until the sun does. So the following recommendations are applicable both in the Summer as well as the Winter. Be mindful that the rays are strongest and most intense during the Summer as opposed to the Winter. For optimal protection, sunscreen use is encouraged all year long.
In the Northern Hemisphere, summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21. However, in the USA, this upcoming weekend is a three-day holiday ending on Monday, May 29, the observed Memorial Day. Most people in this country consider this date the unofficial beginning of the legendary season of “fun-in-the-sun.” Irregardless of which date one prefers for the arrival of Summer, there’s no denying the fact that warmer temperatures and longer hours of daylight are here. This means that textile folks are wearing less clothing and us clothes-free enthusiasts are wearing none, as usual.
That also means that most, if not all, of us, naked or otherwise, are outside more than we were a month ago. While outdoors, we’re all exposing more of our skin to the sun’s rays. This baring of ourselves in all this sunshine is a welcome change and a relief after the forced hibernation of this past winter.
In our eagerness to get out and frolic in the fresh air and warm sun, many of us forget one of the basic rules of summer health: we all need to cover up (protect) our skin before we uncover any part or all of our body. This “cover up” entails the use of an appropriate sunscreen applied correctly, adequately (sufficient quantity) and, when necessary, reapplied diligently. Using sunscreen allows us optimal enjoyment of whatever our social and recreational plans may offer. The purpose of sunscreen is to protect ourselves from sunburn (or worse) as well as the long-term effects of the sun’s radiation.
What is sunburn?
Sunburn is caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation and not heat. It is important to remember that skin can burn even on overcast or cloudy days, cold winter days and while under shade (shelter from direct sunlight). Sunburn damages or destroys the skin, which controls the amount of heat our body retains or releases, holds in fluids (hydration) and protects us from infection.
Reactions to sunburn range from mild irritation (itching) to serious pain. Sunburns may cause fevers and nausea (depending on the severity of the burn) and makes dead skin peel away. Sunburn may lead to serious health complications later in life.
Author’s Note: The information below is very general and is offered as a guide to use in selecting the type of sunscreen that’s best for personal protection. Keep in mind that every individual is just that, an individual: a unique person. What is applicable for one may or may not be the same for another. When in doubt, consult a health practitioner. It’s better to ask before than to be sorry later!
What is sunscreen?
Sunscreen is a chemical that, to a certain degree, prevents ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. While there is no product that totally eliminates UV radiation damage, many variations, when used properly, can and do protect the skin adequately.
What should I look for in a sunscreen?
Regardless of where sun activity is taking place; a backyard, an athletic field or court, a park, a beach or a pool, the product should contain to elements for effective protection. Always look for a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that contains specific chemicals that block both UV-A and UV-B radiation from penetrating the skin surface.
While no product is completely waterproof, select a “water-resistant” type that is designed for long-lasting wear, especially if swimming or perspiring (sweating). Choose a variation that is both easy to apply and feels good on the skin. There are numerous commercial brands available: creams, lotions, moisturizers, gels sprays, and solid stick types.
What is SPF?
The initials SPF that appear on sunscreen packaging refer to sun protection factor (SPF). It is the measure of the effectiveness of the sunscreen in absorbing UV-B radiation. If someone sunburns after about 10 minutes of sun exposure, using a product of SPF15 extends the amount of time before sunburn occurs to 150 minutes or two-and-a-half hours. After this amount of time, it should be re-applied to continue protection.
In terms of percentages, a product of SPF15 blocks 93% of the UV-B rays. One of SPF30 blocks 97% of UV-B radiation and one of SPF50 blocks 99%. The difference in protection may not justify the added expense of higher SPF sunscreens. What is important is to remember re-application within the suggested time frames.
What’s the best sunscreen for me?
This depends on many factors, including age, skin type, activity, time of day, location (proximity to the equator) and the UV index (determined daily). It is important to keep in mind that race and ethnicity are not factors in determining the best sunscreen for personal use. For most skin types, a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF15 is recommended. Men with fair or lighter skin tones (of all races) and low sun tolerance (burn easily) should use a SPF30. For minimal sun exposure, 90 minutes or less, a moisturizer cream may suffice (with correct SPF level).
For extended periods of sun exposure and higher activity level, use a longer-lasing product such as a cream, gel or lotion. Sprays (aerosol or pump) are beneficial for hairy parts of the body, including the arms and armpits, back, chest, legs and the pubic region. If a person is acne-prone, choose sunscreens that are oil-free or non-carnodegenic.
For persons with sensitive skin, the chemicals in some sunscreen products may cause skin irritation. Those individuals may decide to use a product that contains only physical blockers (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide). A physical blocker does not penetrate the skin layers as do chemicals. Physical blockers stay on the skin surface to provide protection.
What’s the best way to use sunscreen?
If you’ve used sunscreen before and gotten a sunburn, it was either applied incorrectly, the wrong SPF or wasn’t re-applied within the specified time frame. For sunscreen to be effective, it must be used in sufficient quantity, applied correctly and thoroughly, applied before sun exposure and reapplied often and within guidelines. Remember the lips: use a lip balm with a minimum SPF15.
One ounce (a full shot glass) per adult body per application (minimally). Apply liberally all over the body, including behind the ears, on the edges of the ears and the ear lobes. It goes without saying that sunscreen should likewise be applied in the underarms, the penis, behind the knees and on the testicles (both front and back).
When to apply?
At least 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Re-apply 15 minutes later, again, prior to sun exposure. The extra application helps to cover body areas that may have been missed the first time. Once in the sunlight, repeat the application process every couple of hours, especially if swimming, perspiring or towel drying.
Who should use sunscreen?
Everyone needs to protect their skin from sun exposure. All races are susceptible to sunburn. Men with darker skin complexions may have a higher tolerance for sun exposure, but at some point they will begin to experience sunburn. Bear and bare in mind that skin damage and serious complications later in life are a result of the failure to protect the skin. Practice prevention now to ensure your health and happiness later.
What does the expiration date mean?
Sunscreen usually remains stable and effective for a period of three years. After the expiration date has passed, the contents may begin to decompose and the product will not offer the intended protection. Always check the expiration date before application. Discard any product if the deadline has expired.
Author’s Note: At the end of the summer season, I always separate my sunscreen by expiration date. Those that expire soon I use during the Autumn and Winter. The rest I set aside until the following Summer.
Remember to protect your eyes!
Sunglasses were invented for a reason: to protect our eyes. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can not only damage our skin, it also causes damage and stress to our eyes. Sunglasses, whether prescription or non-prescription, should be used all year long. Sunglasses also reduce the glare from the sun reflected on the water and other surfaces. Select a pair with UV filtering lenses to reduce the amount of radiation contact with the eyes. This is important for vision health.
Notes for the naturist/nudist:
- As we go about our clothe-free lives, it is important for all of us to apply sunscreen liberally to our entire body. This includes the buttocks and anal area, armpits, penis and testicles (both front and back). Body areas that may not receive direct sunlight absorb both UV-A and UV-B radiation from indirect sunlight as well. Remember to follow the reapplication guidelines every couple of hours – refer to the product labels.
- Manscaping (body hair removal), no matter the method used (shaving, waxing, laser, etc.) creates sensitive areas on the skin surface. First apply a gentle body lotion to the affected area, wait 15 minutes and then cover with sunscreen. Don’t forget to reapply the sunscreen every few hours.
- Summer and sunshine are practically synonymous with naturist and nudist. There are an endless list of nudecentric activities that we all enjoy outside: aquatics, athletics, barbecues and cookouts, events, festivals, hiking and socials. For some it is a time for quiet solitude such as gardening, photography, a stroll along a nature trail or reading. No matter how we choose to spend our leisure time, proper prevention against sunburn ensures all of us freedom from concerns over sun exposure. One less worry as we go about our business of having fun in the sun.
In following the above protocols and our own “common sense” (instincts), we’ll all be able to look back on the Summer of 2017 and recall: a good time was had by all! A season of no regrets and no sunburn pain!
One last note:
After cleaning up from a day in the sun, be it a bath or a shower, a good practice to follow is to apply moisturizer to your skin after patting dry with a towel. It makes no difference if the product is a lotion, gel or whatever. The process of moisturizing ensures the skin layers have enough moisture to retain viability and prevent excessive dryness.
Have a safe, happy, healthy and sunburn-free Summer!