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What are the dangers of sun exposure?
The immediate danger of too much sun is sunburn. If you looked at sunburned skin under a strong microscope, you would see that the cells and blood vessels have been damaged. With repeated sun damage, the skin starts to look dry, discolored, and leathery. Although the skin appears to be thicker, it actually has been weakened and, as a result, it will more easily bruise.
However, the sun's most serious threat is that it is the major cause of skin cancer (which is now the most common of all cancers) and early skin aging. Doctors believe that most skin cancers can be avoided by preventing sun damage.
Does the sun have benefits?
You may have been taught that you need sunlight for your body to make vitamin D, because vitamin D is not found naturally in most foods. But today, many foods are fortified with vitamin D during the manufacturing process. Thus, sun exposure is not as important for the body's vitamin D supply as it used to be. Of course, being outdoors makes most people feel good. And playing tennis is better for your health than watching television. But you can still protect yourself from the sun's damaging effects while enjoying yourself outdoors.
How can I avoid the harmful effects of the sun?
Staying out of the sun is the best way to avoid sun damage, but most of us go outdoors regularly. So when you go outside, take these precautions:
- Always wear sunscreen. Apply it on your skin every day. Make it a habit, as you do with brushing your teeth.
- Avoid sun in the middle of the day, from about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The ultraviolet rays, which cause sunburn, are strongest during this time.
- Wear protective clothing. When you do go outdoors, especially for long periods in the middle of the day. Long sleeves and slacks, as well as a wide-brimmed hat, help protect your body against the sun's harmful effects.
- Wear sunglasses that filter UV light.
What is SPF?
SPF stands for sun protection factor. The SPF number tells you how well the product will protect you from UVB, the burning rays of the sun. (Most sunscreens also absorb ultraviolet "A" rays, or UVA.) The higher the SPF number, the greater the amount of protection. There is a popular misconception that SPF relates to time of solar exposure (example: SPF 15 allows one to stay in the sun 15 hours). This is not true because SPF is not directly related to time of solar exposure but to the amount of solar exposure. It is a relative measure of the amount of sunburn protection provided by sunscreens.
What is the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens?
Chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s rays. They contain chemicals that may cause irritation. Physical sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays. The contain ingredients such as oxide or titanium dioxide and are not absorbed into the skin. Zinc oxide is a natural compound that is safe for even the most sensitive skin types.
You may have been taught that you need sunlight for your body to make vitamin D, because vitamin D is not found naturally in most foods. But today, many foods are fortified with vitamin D during the manufacturing process. Thus, sun exposure is not as important for the body's vitamin D supply as it used to be.
We should also be aware that no sunscreens are “waterproof” because all sunscreens eventually wash off. Sunscreens can only be labeled as “water resistant” if they are tested according to the required SPF test procedure and will be required to state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating.
What medical conditions and medications my increase sun sensitivity?
Lupus, cancer and burns are some medical conditions that may increase sun sensitivity. Medications containing AHA’s, BHA’s and tretinoin or acne treatment products may also increase sun sensitivity.