One of the many reasons people love living in Colorado is the 300 days of glorious sunshine per year. But all that fabulous sun, plus our climate and elevation, mean we need to be extra careful to protect our skin. Sure, we carry sunscreen in our pool bags, but how often do we carry it in our cars or have it handy for backyard play days? When it’s nice outside, we just want to get up and go — so much so that it’s easy to forget to protect ourselves.
Why we need sunscreen
Even on cloudy days, sunlight contains two types of harmful rays — UVA and UVB rays. Soaking up too much of either type of ray can lead to skin cancer, early wrinkles and painful sunburns. And the closer we are to the sun, the more powerful the rays that reach us.
For every 1,000 feet in elevation, we get hit with about five percent more of the sun’s power. At 5,280 feet in Denver, the sun hits us about 26 percent harder than it does at sea level. Colorado’s dry climate can also cause dry skin that’s more sensitive to UV rays. So, it’s not surprising that the skin cancer rate is 15 percent higher in Colorado than the national average. And skin cancer, or melanoma, is deadly — it kills one American every hour.
Choose a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection — that means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. “SPF” stands for sun protection factor. Use one with at least 30 SPF, which blocks nearly 97 percent of UVB rays. Higher SPF levels only provide a tiny bit more protection — SPF 50 blocks 98 percent, while SPF 100 blocks 99 percent. Sunscreens with 30 to 50 SPF should be fine. Remember to apply sunscreen 10 minutes before you go outside, and reapply at least every two hours and each time you come out of the water if you’re swimming.