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Summer Sun

Summer is here and many of us are being exposed to an abundance of sunshine. I’d like to explain how we can best avoid the harmful effects of the sun.

We all know that the sun provides visible light to our earth, but it also provides invisible light called ultraviolet rays of which there are two types. Ultraviolet A (UVA) causes skin aging and skin cancer, not visual sunburn.  Ultraviolet B (UVB) is what actually causes the traditional sunburn. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Some people are more sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun. Those who have blond or red hair, light colored skin and light colored eyes will get sunburn quicker than those with darker skin and eyes.

Sunlight damages the skin in the same manner as a heat burn, causing symptoms ranging from a first degree red, hot painful burn to a second degree burn causing blisters and deeper damage to the skin.  Unprotected long term exposure to sunlight will cause wrinkling of the skin with the appearance of premature aging.  The most serious effect of sun damage is the increased chance of developing a deadly skin cancer called melanoma.

The best protection against the damaging effects of the sun is to have your skin covered by clothing to the greatest extent possible.  Wear light colored tightly woven clothing. If impractical to be protected by clothing, then a sunscreen lotion is necessary.

Sunscreens are rated by a code called SPF (sun protection factor) which you will see on the label of all sunscreens.  It rates how long a person can be in the sun without being burned.  There is no proof that SPF ratings over 30 give any measurable benefit. Most sunscreens now protect against both UVA and UVB. Check the label before you buy a sunscreen lotion.

Proper application is the key to success. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure.  Use about 1 teaspoon per body part such as the face, an arm or a leg.  Use 2 tablespoons (comparable to a shot glass) to cover the body when wearing a bathing suit.

Most sunscreen lotions are labeled either “water proof” or “water resistant.”  Even these need to be reapplied after swimming, towel drying, or heavy sweating. Read the directions on the label.

Apply the sunscreen to all exposed body parts especially those often overlooked such as tops of ears and feet, back of the neck, face and bald spots.

Recommendations:

  • Avoid sun exposure especially between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 pm.
  • Always wear sunscreen and reapply frequently, at least every 2-3 hours, or more frequently if your skin gets wet from swimming or sweating.  One application in the morning will not protect you through the whole day.
  • Keep yourself covered with light colored tightly knit clothing as much as possible.
  • Avoid tanning salons.
  • See your doctor if you have a sunburn and are experiencing unbearable pain or significant blistering.
  • Check your skin (all areas) regularly for any unusual dark lesions.
  • Protect your eyes with UV rated sunglasses.
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