It’s officially summer as of last Thursday and with temperatures hovering at 100 where I live, it’s time to revisit ways to beat the heat. I posted this piece last year, thought “why reinvent the wheel,” and so I’m doing something I’ve never done (but might think about doing it more often): I’m reposting it!
When it’s so hot outside you just want to play it cool inside in the air conditioning rather than playing anything outside. But, some of us have no choice as our jobs or daily lives have us outside a lot. What to do when that is the case? Wear sunscreen, cover your head, and drink lots of water.
MADE IN THE SHADE
Let’s start with sunscreen. Do you really need it, what SPF is best, and how much should you use? First of all, yes, you need it. We all need it. Daily. Even in the shade. In fact, a new study found that 78 percent of people who used only an umbrella on a sunny beach day burned but only 25 percent of those who used SPF got sunburned. First of all, who doesn’t use sunblock on the beach? Secondly, don’t let the shade fool you. You will still get burned in the shade because it doesn’t block UV light.
As for SPF, higher isn’t the key, how you apply it and how often you apply it is. This doesn’t mean you should opt only for SPF 15 for a week at the beach, but it also doesn’t mean SPF 50 is the only way to go. According to “Good Housekeeping” magazine testing labs, people tend to apply only about one-third the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the SPF level of that bottle. Think about it, if you’re using SPF 15 but doing a lousy job of applying it, you’re really using way less than SPF 15 and will most likely get sunburned.
We get sunburned because UV radiation reaches the earth in the form of UVB and UBA rays, the first one being the cause of skin cancer. Sunscreen uses SPF, which refers to the amount of UVB protection in that bottle.
So what exactly is SPF? If you thought the three letters stood for something scientific and formal, you’re wrong. They stand simply for Sun Protector Factor, which is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent the sun’s rays from damaging your skin.
As for what level blocks how much, sunscreens with higher SPF ratings block more UVB rays but none offer 100 percent protection. Here’s how it works. On average, it takes around 20 minutes for someone’s unprotected skin to start turning red when exposed to the sun. If that person had applied SPF 15 sunscreen, theoretically it would prevent their skin from getting burned 15 times longer.
Here’s another way to look at it. An SPF 15 product is said to block around 94 percent of harmful UVB rays while SPF 30 filters almost 97 percent of the rays, meaning 3.3 percent reach the skin. On the other hand, SPF 60 blocks 98 percent, allowing only 1.7 percent to reach the skin. But, opting for high SPF products sometimes give us a false sense of security that diminishes when we don’t apply that sunscreen correctly.
The best advice is to apply sunscreen liberally before going outside and then again once you’re outdoors. Be sure to hit all exposed areas of the body, spread evenly, and most importantly: reapply at least every two hours. This is crucial!
And if you’re thinking “but sunscreens aren’t healthy,” stop right there. Sunburns aren’t healthy either, and since ingredients need to be treated in chemicals for effectiveness, there is no such thing as a truly “natural” sunscreen. Buy them, use them, and be on your way.
Funny thing happened on the way to the beach: hearing my mom tell me again and again that that “30 percent of your body heat escapes out of your head so put a hat on in the cold.” Well, if that’s the case, why in the world would I want to cover my head at the beach or while playing golf? Is this why many cultures carry umbrellas when outside?
Perhaps, but sunshine on a hot day will actually make the outside of your head hotter…you know, your hair and your skin. In this case, a hat won’t keep your body heat in, it will keep the outside heat out. By keeping the sun’s hot rays off your head, you will stay cooler than if those rays were beating directly down on you. So, in the cold wear a hat and in the heat wear a hat. Easy peasy.
Okay, what about visors? Are they effective too? A lot depends on what your activity is going to be.
If you’re going to be at the pool or on the beach and occasionally cooling off in the water, a hat is a good choice. But, if you’re running or playing something like tennis, a visor may be a smarter option. According to triathlete.com and coach/trainer Mat Steinmetz, hats may protect your scalp from radiant heat, but the fabric in them can also lessen evaporative and convection cooling.
With both hats and visors, pick white ones with dark under-brims if possible and always opt for those that are lightweight, breathable, and absorb moisture but don’t interfere with the evaporative effect of sweating. Steinmetz recommends a full mesh hat that allows air to pass through.
The other role hats in the heat play are to block our faces, necks, and even chests from harmful rays. Wide-brimmed hats on the beach are not only stylish but smart. Your face is one of the most sun-sensitive areas of your body so making sure the sun doesn’t see it is the goal.
Don’t wait until you’re out in the heat to start drinking water. Everyone should drink lots of water every day, but if you know you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, it’s even more important to hydrate before, during, and after. Why?
Because when it’s hot you sweat more and when you sweat more you could become dehydrated. In fact, heat travels through our bloodstream to our skin, resulting in sweat. As that sweat evaporates, we cool off and return to a safe body temperature but lose body moisture along the way. Our bodies function best at a certain temperature but when we get too hot, they need to cool down. Sweat evaporating on our skin can tends to cool us down but we need to replenish all that moisture oozing out of our pores. Drinking water also helps prevent muscle cramping, dizziness, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke.
Many consider water our most essential nutrient. A person can live quite a while without food but for only days without water. Water in our bodies supplies nutrients, removes waste, maintains blood circulation and body temperature, increases metabolism, and carries heat away from our internal organs.
In addition to drinking lots of water, you might also want to hydrate with sports drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates. You should also avoid alcohol and eat hydrating and potassium-rich fruits like watermelon, berries, peaches, nectarines, and bananas. An easy way to gauge if you are well-hydrated is to check your urine. If it’s pale, not cloudy or dark, you’re good to go!
So there’s my top 3 ways to beat the heat, or at least survive it. Be cool everyone!