We all enjoy getting outside and soaking in some vitamin D, but there is such a thing as too much sun. If your skin is unprotected by clothing or shade, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light can damage skin cells. UV-B rays reach the outer layer of the skin. UV-A rays are longer in wavelength and can penetrate the middle layer of your skin. That’s why it’s important to look for sunscreen that can protect you against both. Not only does sun damage your skin and cause premature aging and skin cancer, but it can also damage your eyes and cause vision problems, as well as suppress your immune system.
UV-C are rays we don’t hear about very often because they don’t normally reach the ground. However, these damaging rays can also come from manmade sources including arc welding torches, mercury lamps, and UV sanitizing bulbs.
Most skin cancers are a result of the UV rays in sunlight to exposed parts of your body. Studies have shown that basal and squamous cell skin cancers are linked to those who spend a lot of time in the sun at the beach or lying by the pool in a swimsuit. A history of serious sunburns also raises your risk of skin cancer. Look for liver spots, rough skin patches, and dry, wrinkled skin on the neck caused by sun exposure, and go see a dermatologist if you see any signs of sun damage.
If you use a tanning bed or tanning booth, you have a higher risk of melanoma – especially if you started indoor tanning before the age of 35. The risk of basal and squamous cell skin cancer is higher if you started indoor tanning before age 25. So, if you use a tanning bed, stop.
Other things you can do to reduce sun exposure include:
Wear a hat. The shade of a tightly woven, wide-brimmed hat provides your face and eyes (along with sunglasses) with the best protection to help shield you from the harmful effects of UV rays. Baseball caps are better than nothing, but be sure to put sunscreen on your neck and ears, too.
Cover your body. The heat of summer isn’t the time most of us think of wearing long sleeves and pants. However, wearing light weight, breathable material can help you stay cool and protect your skin.
Get some shade. Staying in the shade during the peak hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.) of the sun will help protect your skin, even if it’s cloudy.
Wear sunscreen. When you are out in the sun, you should apply about a palmful of sunscreen every two hours. If you are sweating or swimming, applying sunscreen more often is recommended, even if the sunscreen is waterproof. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommends that your sunscreen has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and should protect against both Ultraviolet A (UV-A) and Ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays.
Some weather reports include the UV index each day. If the UV index is 3 or higher, adding a layer of protection will help with sun exposure. So remember, wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat, and check your skin and moles for changes. Stop by Village Pharmacy to pick up some sunscreen for you and your family. Stay safe friends!
Sources: American Cancer Society, CDC.