With the sunny days of summer upon us, it’s a good time to remember that, as good as it feels, too much sun exposure risks a range of ill effects on your skin, from premature aging to cancer. In fact, skin cancer is the most common form of the disease in the United States.
The good news is that many of these sun-related issues can be prevented or managed with reasonable care. Here are some points to keep in mind as you engage in sun-filled summer activities.
There’s much about sunlight that’s beneficial to your health. It’s an essential part of the process that manufactures vitamin D, perhaps a contributor to that feeling of craving the warm sun on your skin. Your body can’t absorb enough vitamin D from your diet, so unless you’re taking supplements, sun exposure is essential.
However, it’s very easy to get too much of this good thing. Your vitamin D supply is recharged with about half the amount of sun exposure needed to burn, for most people. It’s an efficient process, using the ultraviolet B rays of sunlight. While ultraviolet rays — both A and B — are also the component of sunlight that cause cancer, you don’t need to risk burning to get enough vitamin D.
It’s natural, through the hottest hours of the day, to seek shade and perhaps a cooling breeze. This tendency has a sound basis in skin protection science. Your risk of UV exposure happens to be greatest when the sun is highest.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends observing 10am-4pm as prime time for shade. Simply planning your sunlit activities outside of this window keeps your skin away from the heaviest risks. Don’t forget to bump those times to 9am-3pm during months of standard time.
Of course, you can’t suspend living for six hours a day, so it’s inevitable you’ll need to venture into the sun during peak exposure hours. That’s OK, if you’re already maximizing your shade. However, you still need to remain vigilant. You don’t count on time spent in the sun when you bump into a friend. Even a 15-minute chat could be enough if you’re not protected.
Long-sleeved shirts, long skirts or pants, beach wraps and sunglasses all help you stylishly protect your skin. Choose your summer wardrobe with sun protection on the list of priorities. Being safe doesn’t mean you need to swelter.
And of course, using sun protection factor (SPF) skin products is de rigueur. Dedicated SPF sunscreens are always available, and many skin cream and makeup products now include SPF protection as well. Plan your UV armor.
The effects of sun exposure are cumulative. Even if you’re vigilant about sun protection today, you don’t earn a free pass tomorrow. You may not develop skin cancer, but your skin can still lose moisture, develop fine lines or patches of discoloration and, in general, lose its youthful vitality more quickly.
As well, UV rays are not the only cause of skin cancers, so avoiding sunlight or tanning salons doesn’t eliminate the risk completely. Should you develop suspicious spots or discolorations on your face and neck, call Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates to schedule a skin exam with one of their specialists. The joys of summer can be yours, worry-free, for years to come.