Summer Sun Protection Tips
Summer is here and it is HOT! It’s natural to want to get out in the sun when the days get longer and the temperature gets warmer. It’s also a good time to review the latest expert advice about how to protect your skin from damage.
There are 2 types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun that can cause damage to our skin, UVA and UVB. UVA rays make up 95% of the UV radiation that we are exposed to. UVA rays penetrate into the skin more deeply and cause damage to the skin resulting in aging of the skin and wrinkles, also known as photoaging. UVA rays also damage skin cells and can lead to skin cancer. UVA rays are the dominant tanning ray, and a tan results from injury to the skin and damage to the DNA of skin cells. The darkening is a protective mechanism by the skin to help prevent more damage. Damage to the DNA of skin cells can ultimately lead to skin cancer. So, a tan is not the sign of a healthy appearance, it is the sign of damage to the skin caused by UV radiation.
UVB rays do not penetrate the skin as deeply as UVA rays. They are the primary source of sunburn, which is the result of damage to the superficial skin. They also play a key role in skin cancer development and photoaging. The most significant amount of UVB rays occur from 10am-4pm.
It is important to reduce sun exposure as much as possible, especially between 10am and 4pm. The best protective mechanism is to seek shade and wear clothing that has UPF (ultraviolet protection factor), along with a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Also, for exposed areas or times when the sun cannot be avoided, it is important to apply sunscreen to help reduce the effects of the sun’s UV rays. Everyone knows the concept of SPF (sun protection factor). It is not indicative of exactly how protective it is against the sun’s UV rays, but it is more a measure of how long it will take for UVB rays to redden the skin, compared to how long it would take to redden without the product. For example, someone using a sunscreen with SPF 15 would take 15 times longer to redden than if they weren’t wearing it. In selecting a sunscreen, it is important to make sure that it has an SPF 15 or higher and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. It may also be called broad or multi-spectrum. For extended outdoor activity, I recommend SPF 30 or higher and water-resistant. I recommend applying the sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure. Even with a high SPF and a rating of water-resistant, it is extremely important to apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours during the exposure, as well as after water exposure.
Additionally, annual skin checks by your physician, especially in those people who have a personal or family history of abnormal skin lesions or skin cancer, are extremely important as skin cancer that is caught early is much easier to treat than if it has had time to progress.