We worship the sun. Then why does everyone talk about protection from the sun? Anything in excess can be harmful and it applies to sun exposure too. We need to understand why and how we should protect ourselves from the sun.
The sun produces 2 kinds of rays – UVA and UVB rays – which cause damage to our skin. Since the sun’s rays can cause everything from skin aging to skin cancer, there are many reasons to protect yourself from the sun. It is important to know just what each ray is responsible for when it comes to damage to our skin.
UVA rays are constantly present, no matter the season or the weather. If you think you can’t get sun damage on a cloudy day, you are wrong. They are so powerful that they also penetrate clothing and even glass.
UVA rays are also responsible for skin aging because they are able to penetrate much deeper into the surface of the skin, damaging the skin cells beneath. While people think their skin looks younger and even healthier when it’s tan, the reality is that each tan is creating irreversible skin damage.
UVB Rays are the rays you can blame when you get a sunburn. Unlike UVA rays, these rays aren’t always the same strength year round; they are stronger in the summer months. However UVB rays reflect off of water or snow and cause a sunburn even in the winter, so it’s always important to protect yourself year-round with sunscreen.
UVB rays are responsible for causing most skin cancers. While large doses of UVA rays can contribute to cancer, it’s the UVB rays that are commonly to blame. If you’ve heard the advice to stay out of the sun, though the midday hours, it’s the UVB rays you’re trying to avoid. They are most prevalent midday, so if you must be out at that time, protect your skin with clothing, a wide brimmed hat, and of course sunscreen.
Everyone needs to wear sunscreen including children. Health experts advise everyone, regardless of skin color, to use sunscreen regularly with an SPF of at least 15.
What is SPF?
The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) refers to the sunscreen’s ability to screen or block out the sun’s harmful UVB rays. It measures the length of time a product protects against skin reddening from UVB, compared to how long the skin takes to redden without protection.
If it takes 20 minutes without protection to begin reddening, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer — about 5 hours. To maintain the SPF, reapply sunscreen every two hours and right after swimming.
Please make sure your sunscreen has broad-spectrum protection that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
Sunscreen contains ingredients that protect the skin from harmful ultraviolet rays. Too much exposure to the sun can lead to health problems and skin irritations. Although dark-skinned people won’t get sunburned as quickly, they will still burn and are still susceptible to sun-induced damage—such as sun spots, wrinkles—and cancer.
Short term Damage: Skin that is overexposed to sunlight without sunscreen may sun burn, becomes red and dry, and discolouration may occur.
Long term Damage: One may age prematurely; wrinkles develop due to sun damage. Skin cancer develops due to exposure to the sun without sunscreen; melanoma is especially dangerous.
Most adults should use about 35 ml of sunscreen to cover their whole body. It’s about the same as an adult handful. Remember, most people don’t apply enough sunscreen. It’s OK to use more than you think you should. As mentioned above apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going out in the sun, and reapply every 2 hours or as soon as you get done swimming or sweating heavily.
Even with the ideal sunscreen, some UV rays can get through to your skin and cause damage. The Skin Cancer Foundation considers sunscreen one part of a comprehensive sun protection program, along with sun-protective clothing, sunglasses, shade, and sun avoidance from 10A.M. to 4 PM.