6 Reasons You Never Thought Would Get You Sunburned

©istockphoto/Sami Sert

©istockphoto/Sami Sert

There are so many reasons to avoid sunburns yet most of us get burned all the time. It’s easier than you think to avoid them, but you may want to keep in mind these overlooked reasons for over-exposures.

Watch What You Watch
Besides the fact you get wrapped up in Facebook and sit there too long, that iPad could be burning you. Did you know the glare reflected from an iPad can increase UV exposure by 85 percent? An iPhone can increase exposure by 36 percent as well. The safest solution is to read under a tree or umbrella or, better yet, leave the device at home and enjoy the sunshine.

Watch Those Pills
Antibiotics and even over-the-counter pain pills like ibuprofen can increase sun sensitivity. You also should beware of effects of oral contraceptives and anti-depressants on your sun sensitivity. The problem should subside once you’ve stopped taking the pills, but some effects can last up to a month. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy the outdoors, but you may want to check with your physician, and use some common sense if headed to the beach.

Watch Your Drinking
Alcohol can contribute more than you think to sunburn. According to a Harvard Medical School survey done in 2006 on data from 300,000 people, you have a 22 percent greater risk of getting sunburned if you have 5 or more alcoholic drinks. In fact, lead researcher Kenneth J. Mukamel, MD, estimates that 18 percent of all sunburns were attributed to alcohol use. Heavy drinking does affect your decision making skills, but sometimes you may stay out too long just because you’re having too much fun.

Watch Your Sunscreen
Old sunscreen can get you burned, so can trusting higher SPFs. It’s safest to trash sunscreen that is more than a year old, though most sunscreens are designed to last three years if kept in optimal conditions, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. I have used very old (over seven years old) sunscreen and it did work better than none at all, but better safe than sorry (and burned).

Just because you use a sunscreen with a SPF of 75 doesn’t mean you can go three times longer in the sun than your partner with SPF 25. It is recommended that you reapply any sunscreen regularly and never go more than 2 hours without a new application.

Watch What You Wear
You probably thought you were being safe wearing that T-shirt on the beach. Well, the only protection it provides is to hide that belly. Standard T-shirts provide about the equivalent of SPF 7 protection and provide way less if wet. Some clothing comes with UPF (high ultra-violet protection) and should have a UPF value of 50 or more to be effective, but you have to specifically buy garments with this feature and your standard T-shirt won’t have this protection. Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30 or more for protection for most of us so that T-shirt isn’t doing the job you think.

Watch Your Timing
Just because it is comfortable out doesn’t mean you can’t get a sunburn. While the UVB rays from the sun—which cause burning and some skin cancers—do peak mid-day from around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can burn earlier or later in the day. Also, UFA rays—which also cause aging and some skin cancers—are constant all day long. We seem to think cloudy days are safer, but the clouds only block about 20 percent of the harmful UV rays.

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