It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere and that means vacations, outdoor concerts, pool and beach days, sporting events, and plenty of fun in the sun. Many people barbecue outdoors, savor meals in outdoor cafes, and enjoy long walks with their dogs now that the weather is warm and beautiful. But how do we make sure that the sun doesn’t take a negative toll on us as we go about our everyday lives? Any one of these activities can lead to sunburn and overexposure.
Being outside in the sun is natural. The sun makes us look and feel alive. It prompts us to exercise for a heart-healthy lifestyle. The sun provides our bodies with much needed natural Vitamin D and it also helps us chase away the blues we can feel during the colder months. But we have to be smart and avoid the pitfalls of dangerous sun exposure. Unfortunately, the sun that can give us a glow of health can also be detrimental to our health. Not only does the sun make our skin age prematurely (think wrinkles and age spots) through its UVA rays, it also can cause various skin cancers, some of which can be deadly, through its UVB rays.
WebMD sums it up well. “Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily — taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life.”
WebMD claims there are 1 million cases of skin cancer reported every year. “Someone dies of skin cancer — malignant skin cancer every hour — about one every 67 minutes,” says Atlanta-based dermatologist Dr. Harold Brody, a frequent contributor to the WEBMD site. “Five or more sunburns and you double your risk for skin cancer.”
The Skin Cancer Foundation believes the statistics are even more alarming. “Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. More than 4 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.”
As a part of your daily routine , you should use a 30-50 SPF sunscreen during outdoor activities. Choose a broad spectrum with Parasol 1789, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide for most effective protection. Watch for expiration dates on sunscreen as it can lose its effectiveness over time and with heat exposure. Many doctors believe that sunscreen now contained in many women’s makeup bases is not enough protection for a woman’s face. They recommend applying lotion sunscreen as a moisturizer under your makeup base.
Here are year-round skin cancer prevention tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
- Cover up with clothing, hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
In addition to safeguarding your skin, you need to shield your head and your eyes from sun damage. Professionals believe that you can reduce your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration and eyelid skin cancer by wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection. Gray or amber tinted with wraparound frames offer the best sun protection. You should also always wear a hat (with at least 2-3” brim) in the sun.
Finally, drinking 6-8 glasses of water helps keeps you hydrated in the summer and plumps and freshens your skin. Antioxidants, like Vitamin E and C, lycopene, green tea, and grape seed oil among others, may also help reduce sun damage and premature skin aging. Experts recommend eating plenty fruits and vegetables, and drinking coffee and tea rather than taking supplements.
So go out and enjoy life, but be sun smart!
All books are available at amazon.com. Click on title to learn more.
The Healing Sun
by Richard Hobdag
Safety in the Sun for the Whole Family
by Carolyn Stone and Evelyn Trimborn
Sun, Skin and Health
by Terry Slevin
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