Wintertime is here! But, with everything going on around us, you are probably spending more time outside and enjoying all your favorite outdoor activities.
Whether or not your ideal outdoor pastime is hiking, walking, cycling, or hanging in a hammock before you go out and soak up some sunshine, you need to do everything you can to protect your skin.
Are Sunburns Really Dangerous?
You may not think you spend time enough time in the sun to need protection. But, did you know the sun’s rays can damage your skin in just 15 minutes?
You may not notice any problems immediately because it can take up to 12 hours for damage to appear, but it can happen that quickly.
You may also think sunburns are par for the course. And although sunburns can be painful, they are no big deal because they will go away in a day or two.
But the fact is that sunburns can be serious and even cause permanent damage to your skin that might be invisible to the naked eye.
How Does Sunlight Damage Skin?
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are the culprit. UV rays are a form of electromagnetic energy produced by natural sources like sunlight and artificial sources like tanning beds. These rays have the potential to harm the skin.
The effects of damaging UV rays range from purely cosmetic to life-threatening.
For example, UV rays can:
- Cause skin cancer. Nearly 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer each year, and one in five will develop skin cancer during the course of their lifetime.
- Damage and kill skin cells and destroy the top layer of the skin.
- Cause direct and indirect damage to DNA.
- Lead to premature aging of the skin (wrinkles).
- Increase acne hyperpigmentation.
- Lead to dehydration. Sunburn causes blood vessels to dilate and tells your body to send more blood to your skin, making you more likely to lose fluid.
- Cause flat brown spots called sunspots due to too much sun exposure. These spots will darken as they are exposed to more sunlight.
Why Does My Skin Tan?
Here’s an interesting fact – the healthy glow from a tan may not be so healthy. A tan is the result of your body responding to UV damage. The reason your body produces more pigmentation is to shield your genetic material from absorbing ultraviolet light rays.
The appearance of a suntan is a signal your body has been exposed to harmful rays. So, you might think twice before your next sunbathing or tanning session.
Am Is at Risk for Sun Damage?
Everyone is at risk. Although people who have lighter skin and light-colored eyes are at a higher risk for sunburn and skin cancer, every skin type is susceptible to harmful UV exposure.
A strong family history of skin cancer places you at a higher risk of adverse reactions to sun exposure. Taking certain medications can also make your skin more susceptible to sunburn.
10 Ways to Protect Your Skin From Damaging UV Rays
Did you know damaging UV rays can reach your skin, even if you are wearing clothes? That’s why you must use a multi-faceted approach to protecting your most precious organ.
1. Wear Protective Clothing
Look for clothing labeled Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The higher the UPF rating, the fewer UV rays will get through to your skin. Choose a tightly woven nylon or nylon-polyester blend in a dark color for the best protection.
2. The Shade Is Your Friend
Whenever possible, stay in the shade. Choose a shady spot under trees or awnings if you will be outside for more than 15 minutes.
If you are participating in an activity that requires that you be in the full sun, make sure that there is shade nearby that you can retreat to.
3. Wear a Hat
Hats protect your head and face from the sun. Choose a hat with a wide brim that reaches all the way around your head for the best protection.
4. Keep Kids Safe
Children under 6 months old should not be in the direct sun. Their skin needs extra protection because it has not fully matured.
Dress them in clothes that will protect them from the sun’s rays, put on a hat to protect their little bald heads, and keep them in the shade.
5. Limit Your Exposure
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends limiting your exposure to the sun, “especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense.”
6. Use Sunscreen Properly
- Use sunscreen even when it is cloudy.
- Choose a water-resistant sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB Rays.
- Apply it 15-30 minutes before sun exposure.
- Reapply every two hours unless you are sweating or swimming, then you will need to reapply every hour.
7. Take Vitamin D
Your body processes vitamin D using the sun’s rays. If you use sunscreen daily or wearing highly protective clothing, you may not be getting enough vitamin D. Have your Vitamin D levels checked and take a supplement if needed.
8. Be Aware of Cloudy Days
UV rays can penetrate clouds and windows. So, don’t think just because it is cloudy or sunlight is filtered through a window, it won’t have the same effect.
9. Watch Out for Reflections
Areas like bodies of water, snow, and concrete surfaces reflect UV rays more than others, so be extra cautious if you are around them.
10. Educate Yourself About Your Skin
Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Remember, it:
- Protects you from the elements and microbes.
- Assists in the regulation of body temperature
- Senses touch, heat, and cold
But even though it protects you and takes care of you, it also relies on you to protect and take care of it.
Contact Us Today
Using these protective tips is an excellent start to keeping your skin healthy and happy. If you are concerned your skin may have already succumbed to sun damage, make an appointment today.
We’ll check out any areas of concern, diagnose any conditions, and prescribe a treatment plan if necessary. Contact us today!