Everyone needs a little sun in their lives. Sun exposure gives our bodies much needed Vitamin D that helps to absorb calcium for healthy, strong bones. Still, people need to be aware of the sun’s damaging rays and be safe when going outdoors this summer.
According to MSN, it doesn’t take much time in the sun for unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression, and even cancer.
Sunlight contains three ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA rays make up the majority of our sun exposure, but UVB rays also make it to the Earth’s surface. UVC rays never make it though the ozone layer to reach the Earth’s surface, so we are not affected by UVC rays.
A chemical called melanin is our body’s first defense against the sun. It absorbs the dangerous UV rays and as the melanin increases in response to sun exposure, the skin tans. Melanin is found in different concentrations and colors, which results in different skin colors. The lighter somebody’s skin color, the less melanin it has to absorb UV and protect itself. Therefore, the darker somebody’s skin is, the more melanin it has to protect itself. As the melanin increases in response to sun exposure, the skin tans. But even a “healthy” tan may be a sign of sun damage. Sunburn typically occurs once the UV amount is greater than the capacity of our skin’s melanin.
Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for people with:
moles on their skin (or whose parents have a tendency to develop moles)
very fair skin and hair
a family history of skin cancer, including melanoma
Infants, according to MSN, have thinner skin and underdeveloped melanin, therefore their skin burns more easily than that of older kids. But sunscreen should not be applied to babies under 6 months of age, so they absolutely must be kept out of the sun whenever possible. If your infant must be in the sun, dress him or her in clothing that covers the body, including hats with wide brims to shadow the face or use an umbrella to create shade.
To combat the sun’s harmful rays, experts suggest that we should avoid getting too much sun exposure when the UV rays are the strongest – typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Northern Hemisphere.
In addition, sunscreen should be used every time you or your family will be out in the sun for extended periods of time, even if it is overcast, as the UV rays can still make it through on an overcast day. Remember to apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before going outdoors and try to reapply sunscreen every two- to three hours. When applying sunscreen don’t forget about your lips, ears, hands, feet and behind the neck, as these are all areas that will be susceptible to burn but often overlooked by many when applying sunscreen.
The American Association of Dermatology suggests that you use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher before any prolonged sun exposure. You should also apply a waterproof sunscreen if you’re planning to be around water or swimming. Water reflects and intensifies the sun’s rays, so it’s important to put on protection that lasts. Waterproof sunscreen may last up to 80 minutes in the water, and many are also sweat and rub proof. Regardless, make sure to reapply once you get out of the pool. And don’t try to stretch out a bottle of sunscreen; apply it as generously as possible!
It’s also important to protect your eyes against the sun. Sun exposure to the eyes can result in burned cornea and cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration. The best way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses equipped with UV filters. Purchase sunglasses with labels ensuring that they provide 100% UV protection.
While these are only a few safety tips that you should keep in mind before you head outdoors to the beach, the pool or just outside doing some yard work or playing with your children. This advice will only help save your skin from skin cancer and other sun exposure damage and help you to enjoy your time outdoors.