What Is the Best Way to Avoid Sun Damage?
There are a number of ways to protect skin against the damaging UV rays including
- avoiding the sun when the UV rays are the strongest
- wearing sunscreen regularly
- wearing protective clothing
Is Sun Exposure Dangerous?
The immediate danger of sun exposure is sunburn, and long- term exposure increases the risk of wrinkles, sun spots, dry and leathery looking skin, and skin cancer.
The UV Rays from the sun may damage skin in as little as 15 minutes! Exposure to UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. There are two types of UV radiation that we need to protect skin from: UVA and UVB radiation
- UVA radiation may pass through windows and glass and may cause premature aging and wrinkling of skin. This type of radiation is instrumental in causing basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma
- UVB radiation does not pass through glass and windows and is associated with the development of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, as well as causing sunburn.
As sun damage accumulates over time, it is important to use sunscreen every day, even if it is cloudy. Keep in mind that this type of harmful radiation may also occur in tanning beds in addition to the sun.
Let’s examine the different types of major skin issues caused by sun damage to further understand the importance of protecting skin from these harmful rays.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
- A type of skin cancer that occurs in the basal cells that produce new skin cells. It appears as a slightly transparent bump but can also present as a brown/black lesion, flat, scaly red patch or a white scar-like lesion.
- The risk of spreading to other tissues is low.
- These lesions may be removed but the risk of recurrence is high.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- The second most common form of skin cancer that may spread to other tissues, bones and lymph nodes.
- This is a slower growing form of skin cancer and usually found as reddish, scaly patch or bump on areas of the skin exposed to sun: chest, upper back, ears, head, neck, arms, legs, hands and lips.
- If caught early before spreading, it is easier to treat
- This form of skin cancer is less common, but more likely to grow and spread.
- It begins in melanocytes, the cells that create melanin which causes the skin to tan.
- It appears as a dark brown or black tumor but may appear as pink or tan/white and usually found on the chest and back or legs but may occur anywhere on the skin.
What to Look For!
If you have a suspicious skin growth, remember the ABCDE’s of melanoma:
- A = Asymmetry where one side of the mole does NOT match the other
- B = Border where the edges of the mole are irregular or blurred
- C = Color where it is not the same all around and may include brown or black color with patches of white, blue, red or pink
- D = Diameter where the spot is larger than ¼ inch across.
- E = Evolving where the mole changes in size, color or shape.
Don’t Wait Until it is Too Late!
As we are aware of the deleterious effects of too much sun exposure, we need to be more cognizant of the need to protect our skin from harmful radiation. The following tips will protect skin from sun damage and wrinkles:
- Choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation. It should be water resistant and contain an SPF of 30 or higher. To avoid sunburn only, a lower SPF might work; however, it will not protect against cancer as well as SPF of 30 or higher. Zinc Oxide is a more natural version of sunscreen as opposed to chemical based products that may have more side effects.
- Apply 1 ounce (about a shot glass full) of sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoors.
- Reapply sunscreen every 1-2 hours depending on if you are sweating or, if participating in water activities.
- Wear all year round, even on cloudy days.
- Do not use expired sunscreen!
- Apply a lip balm with SPF 30 and higher
- Limit sun exposure between 10am and 4pm.
- If the UV index is 10 or higher, it is recommended to stay indoors.
- Water, snow and sand have reflective properties that increase sunburn risk
- Wear protective clothing (some have sun protective materials)
- Wear sunglasses that have 100% UV absorption
- Avoid sunbathing
- Keep babies under 6 months completely covered and, in the shade
- Wear a hat that shades head, neck and ears.
- Be aware of medications that might make you more sun sensitive.
A long time in the sun may cause sun damage such as wrinkles and age spots. Protecting your skin may help your skin heal even if you are already sunburned and it may prevent skin cancer.
The question arises regarding the best ways to protect the skin from sun damage, and as this blog presents a number of tips and suggestions, the best way to avoid sun damage is: STAY OUT OF THE SUN!
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