Secrets to Safe, Summer Skin
The Sun's Rays
We have all been told over and over about the dangers of exposing our skin to the sun, yet so many of us disregard the warnings.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than half of teens (52%) say they are not too careful or not at all careful to protect their skin from sun exposure.
It is essential at a young age to protect your skin. Protecting children from the sun is especially important, since most of our lifetime exposure occurs before the age of 20.
Remember that not just skin cancer, but 90% of all visible signs of aging, come from ultra-violet sources.
Too much sun can cause sunburn, wrinkles, freckles, skin texture changes, dilated blood vessels, and skin cancers. It may also cause rash problems.
But while we want great, healthy, young-looking skin, we also want a tan. The only way to avoid sun exposure and the resulting sun damage completely is abstinence, but in reality, moderation and protection are likely to play a part for most people.
People don’t use sunscreen regularly enough, or they miss difficult-to-reach areas of skin. A lot of people apply sunscreen haphazardly, and they are not covered properly. The days of struggling to apply sunscreen on those hard-to-reach areas are now over, thanks to the new sun sprays and sun pads.
It’s not only essential to apply sunscreen everyday, whether it’s sunny or not – it’s just as important to apply it properly. It is also not enough to apply sunscreen once. You must remember to re-apply generously and regularly throughout the day to remain protected.
Beach umbrellas and other kinds of shade are a good idea, but they do not provide full protection because UV rays can still bounce off sand, water, and porch decks. Remember, UV rays are invisible.
Sun protection is also important in the winter. Snow reflects up to 80 percent of the sun's rays, causing sunburn and damage to uncovered skin. Winter sports in the mountains increase the risk of sunburn because there is less atmosphere at high altitudes to block the sun's rays.
Protection from the Sun
Using sun protection will help prevent skin damage and reduce the risk of cancer. Sun protection should always start with avoiding peak sun hours and dressing sensibly. Most clothing absorbs or reflects UV rays, but white fabric like loose-knit cotton, and wet clothes that cling to your skin, do not offer much protection. The tighter the weave, the more sun protection it will offer.
The best way to protect your skin is to avoid deliberate sunbathing, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing. If you must be in the sun, use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, even on cloudy days.
Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering the sun's rays on the skin. They are available in many forms, including ointments, creams, gels, lotions, sprays, and wax sticks.
All are labeled with SPF numbers. The higher the SPF, the greater the protection from sunburn, caused mostly by UVB rays. Some sunscreens, called "broad spectrum," block out both UVA and UVB rays. These do a better job of protecting skin from other effects of the sun, although sunscreens are not perfect.
Sunscreens should be applied about 20 minutes before going outdoors.
Even water-resistant sunscreens should be reapplied about every two hours, after swimming, or after strenuous activities.
Your chances of developing a sunburn are greatest between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun's rays are strongest. It's easier to burn on a hot day, because heat increases the effects of UV rays, but you can get burned on overcast days as well.
If skin is exposed to sunlight too long, redness may develop and increase for up to 24 hours. A severe sunburn causes skin tenderness, pain, swelling, and blistering. Additional symptoms like fever, chills, upset stomach, and confusion indicate a serious sunburn and require immediate medical attention.
If you develop a severe sunburn or begin to develop a fever, your dermatologist may suggest medicine to reduce swelling, pain, and prevent infection.
Unfortunately, there is no quick cure for minor sunburn. Cool, wet compresses, baths, and soothing lotions may provide some relief.
A tan is often mistaken as a sign of good health. Dermatologists know better. A suntan is actually the result of skin injury. Tanning occurs when UV rays enter the skin and it protects itself by producing more pigment or melanin.
Indoor tanning is just as bad for your skin as sunlight. Most tanning salons use ultraviolet-A bulbs. Studies have shown that UVA rays go deeper into the skin and contribute to premature wrinkling and skin cancer.
People who work outdoors or sun bathe without sun protection can develop tough, leathery skin, making them look older than they are.
The sun can also cause large freckles called "age spots," and scaly growths (actinic keratoses), that may develop into skin cancer. These skin changes are caused by years of sun exposure.
Wrinkles are directly related to sun exposure. Wearing a hat, staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, and wearing sunscreen will all reduce the chances of developing skin cancer.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SUN PROTECTION
Using a cream or moisturizer daily that contains SPF15 or higher will help protect skin from the environment and the sun’s damaging rays.
If you plan to be outdoors for long periods of time, use a higher SPF for more coverage.
Combining formulas with different levels of SPF will NOT add up to a higher level of protection, so be sure to buy the exact SPF that’s right for your skin type. And don’t forget about your lips and hair, which will bear the brunt of the sun’s strong rays.
Tips for Sun Protection
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 on all exposed skin, including the lips, even on cloudy days.
- If exposed to water, either through swimming or sweating, a water-resistant sunscreen should be used.
- Reapply sunscreen frequently.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Sit in the shade whenever possible.
- Wear protective, tightly woven clothing.
- Plan outdoor activities early or late in the day to avoid peak sunlight hours between 10 am and 4 pm.
Everyone should be able to enjoy sunny days. By using a little common sense, you can safely work and play outdoors without worrying too much about skin cancer or wrinkles.