Let's Talk About the Sun and Sun protection
Summer has officially arrived and you’re probably looking forward to the gorgeous, sunny weather. We can hike or bike in the mountains, go camping, take boats out on the lake and lay on the beach. Summer means fun in the sun, and we all need some sun exposure. Our skin makes vitamin D naturally when we are in the sun. It helps our bodies absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. Unfortunately the sun is also dangerous, and many of us underestimate just how harmful it really is.
How Do Sunburns Happen?
The sun radiates light to the earth, and part of that light consists of invisible UV rays. Any time your skin is not protected by sunscreen or clothes and gets too much sun exposure, it can burn or tan. Even if you don’t feel you’re getting burned your skin may still get some damage.
There are three varieties of rays that cause damage to our skin; UVC, UVA, and UVB. Due to the ever important ozone layer blocking most UVC rays, we are left to defend our skin from UVB and UVA. But each type affects your skin differently.
UVA rays cause skin aging and wrinkling, “sun spots” and contribute to skin cancer, such as melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer). UVA rays pass easily through the ozone layer, so they make up the majority of our sun exposure.
UVB rays are also dangerous, they affect skin’s top layer, causing most sunburns, cataracts, and effects on the immune system. They also strongly linked to skin cancer.
Why Is Sun Protection Important?
Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the peak hours for sun exposure. Don’t be fooled by overcast skies either, those UV rays can still reach through the clouds and can lead to premature skin aging. The signs of skin aging or photoaging can generally be seen on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck and back of the hands. The damage it causes makes you look older than you are. Now that’s reason enough to always protect yourself from the sun!
Who Needs Sun Protection?
Every person needs sun protection. The lighter someone's natural skin color, the less melanin it has to absorb UV rays and protect itself. The darker a person's natural skin color, the more melanin it has. But both dark and light skin types need protection from UV rays because any tanning or burning causes skin damage.
Whether winter or summer, spring or fall, there is one item you should always wear in the outdoors: sunscreen. While we often shrug off the cautions of sun damage, protecting our skin from the sun is as crucial as buckling our seat belts, locking the doors, and the many other precautions we take in life.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Whatever sunscreen you choose, make sure it's broad-spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and, if you are in or near water, is labeled water-resistant. Apply a generous amount and re-apply often.
So Which Is The Best Sunscreen For You?
There are two types of sunscreen ingredients that effectively help prevent sunburn: physical sunscreen filters and chemical sunscreen filters. Physical filters form a barrier on the surface of the skin that helps reflect UV rays away from the skin. These filters are ideal for both daily and prolonged, intense sun exposure. On the other hand, chemical sunscreen filters penetrate the top layers of the skin to absorb UV rays. These filters absorb damaging UV rays before they can damage the skin.
The active ingredients in a physical sunscreen are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Chemical sunscreen ingredients include oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate.
The U.S. FDA has approved both chemical and physical sunscreen active ingredients, deeming them as safe and effective on skin.
Summer days should be spent enjoying a little bit of sunshine, not worrying about the harmful effects of the sun and UV rays. In addition to wearing sunscreen, keep in mind to stay in the shade when the sun is at its strongest. Most sun damage happens from exposure during day-to-day activities, not from being at the beach. Wearing sunglasses, hats and sun-protective clothes that cover the body are other good habits to take when it comes to protecting you and your family. It is never too late to start integrating safe-sun practices into your life. You can safely enjoy outdoor activities today without fear of damage to your skin later.