Much of what we think of as normal aging of our skin is actually caused by exposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. These rays damage the elastin fibers in the skin causing the skin to sag and lose its ability to recover from stretching. It bruises and tears more easily and takes longer to heal. About 80% of sun exposure occurs before we reach the age of 18, but we pay for it later in life as the signs of damage appear as aging and other more serious conditions. This makes it very important to set good examples for and develop good sun protection habits in young children.
Sun exposure causes the following damage:
- Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions
- Benign tumors
- Discolored areas of the skin (mottled pigmentation)
- Sallowness (yellow discoloration)
- Elastosis (destruction of the skin’s elasticity)
Sunscreen is the first line of defense. It is recommended that you use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. This means that it offers protection from 93% of the sun’s rays; SPF 30 provides 97% protection. It is also recommended that you choose a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen product and apply it at least 30 minutes before beginning sun exposure. You should re-apply every 2 hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. The recommended amount to use each time is 1 ounce. Expired sunscreen or that which is more than 3 years old should be discarded.
Other safe habits to develop when outdoors:
- Limit your time in the sun from 10AM to 3 PM when the sun’s rays are the most direct.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses with a 99-100% protection rating.
- Wear tightly woven, long-sleeve clothing.
- Wear a wide brim hat.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Don’t forget about special lip protection products.
- Don’t be fooled into thinking that cloudy days are safe, 80% of UV rays pass through cloud cover.
Sunny days at the beach and park can be tons of fun. Just protect yourself and your family to insure healthy skin for many years to come.
Article Category: Safe Sun