No matter what your skin type, age or previous tanning experience, always wear sunscreen with the appropriate SPF (sun protection factor) when exposed to the sun. Select one with the best protection you can find and slather it on all exposed skin. Reapply after coming out of the water. Make a habit of putting on sunscreen when you are outdoors.
Skin protection is especially vital on the open beach for several reasons. Sand, water and concrete surfaces can reflect 85 percent of the sun's rays. The intensity of the sun has increased in recent years so even if you've never been sensitive to the sun before, it's wise to take steps to protect your skin from burning or sun damage. Don't be fooled by a cloudy day. Ninety percent of the sun's burning rays penetrate the clouds.
Children are especially vulnerable to the sun's damaging rays and require special protection. Nearly half of the damage to skin occurs in childhood and early adolescence. Dermatologists recommend using sunscreen with a high SPF for children. Waterproof sunscreens will eliminate constant reapplications as children play in and out of the water. Protect infants with a hat, lightweight clothing, an umbrella and sunblock. Remember that while an umbrella shades the child from direct sunlight, the reflective rays of the sun are still present, making sunblock a necessity.
Hats, especially the wide-brimmed variety, are not only a fashion statement in coastal Carolina, but also a great covering for sensitive facial skin while providing shade against the sun's glare. Also a must for comfort in the summer's heat is lightweight, light-colored clothing. The natural fibers of cotton and linen are preferable because of their ability to "breathe" more than synthetic fabrics. In the heat and humidity of a summer's day here, you'll appreciate the difference.
Daylight hours between 10 AM and 3 PM are usually the hottest part of the day and pose the greatest risk for skin damage from the sun. Cover up or spend those hours doing indoor activities. Occasionally during the summer months, weather reports will broadcast a heat index warning for the area. This indicates that the sun's heat and the atmosphere's humidity have pushed temperatures to feel hotter than the thermometer reads. These conditions are very dangerous, especially to the elderly, small children and pets. Try to limit your outdoor exposure, especially at midday, and drink lots of fluids — particularly water. Take indoor breaks often, in air conditioning if possible, and avoid exertion.