Spring break or not , everyone’s rushing to get our fair share of the sun. Beach weather and reggae music playing in the background. Barbecues cooking on the side. And let’s not forget beach wear. Girls in their bikinis and guys with their washboard abs. Think Blue Crush on extended and 4d version. But don’t head out there unprepared. I’m not talking about cameras with telephoto lenses or binoculars. If you’re going out there either because you want that sun-tanned look, you’ve got nothing to do or you’re simply a beach bum, you’ll need to know what you’re up to. You need to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun.
You see babies brought out for their daily morning sun exposure. Fifteen minutes of the sun produces more vitamin D (necessary for strong bones and boost our bodies’s immune system) than what eating for the whole day could give you. But like what they say, too much of a good thing can be bad for you.
Why is too much sun exposure hazardous? The sun emits three types of Ultra Violet rays. We’ve got the UVA (ultra Violet A – I know, how lame, right? ), UVB and the UVC. UVC , though it’s known to be the most damaging ,has the shortest range and does not reach the Earth’s surface because it’s immediately filtered by the ozone layer. Of these 3, it’s the first two that we have to be worried about. Both types can penetrate our skin and cause skin damage.
The UVB, since it is of medium range, only permeates the skin’s surface and induces melanin to be produced, thus giving us the sun-kissed look when exposed to it. You probably heard from tanning lotion advertisements to avoid sun exposure from 10 am to 4 pm ( it may actually vary depending on your location from the equator), because that’s when the UVB rays are more prevalent, specially from April to October. It doesn’t penetrate glass so you’re safe if you are at home or in your car. UVB rays may yield shorter term sun damage, like sun burn and discoloration, but they’re the ones that are immediately noticeable as this are damages on the surface of the skin.
UVA ‘s penetration reaches up to the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. As soon as the sun is up, UVA light is consistent. It wouldn’t matter which time of the day you’re exposed to it. Even on winter, when UVB damage is known to decrease , UVA exposure is still possible as it reflects off snow and passes through glass.
Since UVAs are known to have longer range and deeper penetration, it is but natural for people to think that it is more damaging but recent studies have shown that the body finds it harder to repair damage caused by UVBs. It is still, safe to say, though that both UVBs and UVAs have such damages:
- premature skin aging. Though the body tries to heal visible skin damage, our skin’s renewing rate slows after the age of 28. Sunlight destructs collagen elastin in the skin which causes wrinkles and skin dryness.
- Too much sun exposure causes production of free radicals . Free radicals are non -stable molecules seeking other molecules to attain stability. It can attack other known working molecules thereby increasing damage tissues.
- Overexposure to both rays weakens the immune system as a whole.
- Avoid sun exposure between 10am to 4 pm, as this is when the sun’s rays are strongest.
- When you can, use sunnies (with UV coating), umbrellas and hats.
- All fabrics disrupt UV radiation, but only up to a certain degree. Try wearing clothes which carries Ultra Protection Factor (UPF) value rating goes from 15 (good) to 50+ (excellent). Less radiation passes unbleached cotton shirts , tightly woven and knitted clothes . Light color fabrics , although appeals cooler to the eye, have lesser protection from the UV rays. Try to hold the piece of the clothe up to a strong light source, and if less light passes through, the more protection it has got the UV rays.
- Some people like children, the fair skinned and sun sensitive ones need more protection from the sun.
- Apply sunscreen on a daily basis, use one with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) . Choose ones that will shield you from both UVB and UVA ( read the labels please). The possibility of sun damage is present , even when indoors. The SPF value of 15 is acceptable when you are indoors but use 30 if you are going outdoors. Keep in mind it may take up to half an hour after application before the sunscreen would take effect.
- If you can’t resist the glow of being sun kissed, use tanning lotion/ sprays and bronzer for the face. Sun beds are also not safe as the skin is still exposed to UV radiation.