The Truth About Skin and Sun Exposure
If you’re a sun worshipper, perhaps you’re hoping that we’re going to tell you that skin and sun exposure go together like chocolate and peanut butter.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
While some time in the sun is considered healthy for most, there are many factors at play as to how damaging it could be to your skin in the long run. It all depends on how your skin reacts to the sun’s various rays.
Sunlight reaches our skin in the form of ultraviolet light (UV) waves. The shorter a wave, the more potential it has to harm humans.
UV waves are on the shorter side. To make matters worse, UV light waves are further broken down into UVA and UVB waves – with UVB being the shorter of the two. It’s excessive exposure to UVB rays that can cause sunburn.
Meanwhile, UVA rays are able to travel more deeply into the skin where they effectively upset the delicate processes that affect skin’s appearance and growth.
Aside from causing a painful sunburn, the rays of the sun can make the skin less elastic over time – leaving it leathery, wrinkled, and either thickened or thinned.
Melanin and UVA/UVB Rays
Tanning is the skin’s first line of defense against harmful sun exposure. It all comes down to your body’s ability to produce melanin though. Melanin is the pigment in our skin. Some of us have a lot of it. Others, not so much.
For those who are able to tan, their skin produces more melanin when exposed to UV rays. Since melanin absorbs the dangerous UV rays that can cause damage, it provides protection for the skin. When the amount of UV damage exceeds the amount of melanin production the skin can provide, the result is a sunburn. For those with less melanin, this happens much more quickly.
Luckily, the skin is able to repair damage by shedding dead skin cells on the outermost layer and replacing them. Especially when we’re young. But as we get older, the limits of the skin’s ability to recover become more obvious.
The Challenges of Aging Skin and Sun Exposure
Many of us in the middle and later stages of our lives remember getting sunburns when we were kids and teenagers. Some of us didn’t know the damage it was causing. Others were told this was the case, but ignored the warnings from adults because we believed ourselves wiser than adults.
Back then, having a tan was equated with looking healthy. Who cared about a little long-term skin damage? Ironic.
These days, we know better. And as we age, it becomes more difficult for the skin to repair itself. UV damage has ravaged some of the underlying connective tissue and left us with wrinkles and lines.
And it’s no surprise that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
Protecting Your Skin from the Harm of the Sun
A good way to reduce the likelihood of wrinkles, lines, and skin cancer is to make protecting your skin from the sun a high priority. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following:
- Stay Out of the Sun
This one is a no-brainer. Just stay out of the sun whenever you can. Find shade under a tree or, even better, in the shadow of a building or a sun umbrella. And remember that water, snow, or sand reflect harmful UV rays, so steer clear of them.
Keep in mind that the rays are at their strongest between 10am and 4pm. So if your shadow is shorter than you are, get out of the sun. And don’t believe that tanning beds are any safer. They’re not.
Of course, there might be times when you simply can’t avoid being in the sun. In that case…
- Use Sunscreen with Appropriate SPF
If you have to be outside or even in a sunny car for any amount of time, be sure to use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Don’t be skimpy with the application. To ensure you’re getting protection from both UVA and UVB waves, be sure you buy broad spectrum lotion and re-apply about every two hours and after sweating or swimming.
Also, don’t forget lip balm for your smackers with a minimum SPF 15.
- Suit Up with Protective Wear
Finally, give yourself that extra layer of protection with pants, long sleeves, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses.
And clothing with UV protection factor (UPF) will give you extra peace of mind. Plus, it’s designed and manufactured with light and breathable materials to keep you cool on even the brightest and hottest of days.
Is Your Skin Sun Damaged?
These days, most of us are well aware of the dangers of skin and sun exposure. Especially when the skin is not protected.
But if you weren’t privy to that wisdom (or simply ignored it) and are now dealing with wrinkles and lines from too much sun, contact us today.
We can recommend various skincare products and cosmetic procedures that can smooth out some of those blemishes to restore your skin with a healthy glow and younger looking appearance.