Have fun under the sun…carefully!

Tanning is  so popular   nowadays because  , let’s face  it – who wouldn’t want that  sun-kissed  look?  Fashion wise,  the  “glow”  hasn’t really lost its  appeal  despite  the influx  of skin lightening products. To some, having tanned  skin is more  appealing to  the opposite  sex. Think Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez,  and  Halle  Berry.  They’re all stand  outs compared  to  their  “paler” contemporaries. To some,  having  tanned  skin means you’ve got all  the moolah to burn (figuratively), not work   and just  bake in the sun.
Blue Crush
Blue Crush (Image via RottenTomatoes.com)

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.

Two photographs of a man wearing sunscreen (sp...
Two photographs of a man wearing sunscreen (spf 50) on one half of his face, in visible light (left) and ultraviolet light (UV-A, 340-355nm) (right). The sunscreen on the left side of his face absorbs ultraviolet, making that side appear darker in the UV picture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.
These effects may pile  up over time and  may  eventually lead  to  alarming  conditions.  When   the skin  has more  free radicals and  when  these oxidize,  they  destruct DNAs and  RNAs that   make  up the cell which may lead  to  malignant  tumors  or skin cancer.  Skin cancer is one of the most common problem in the UK,  and  its mortality rate is  increasing.
The first   step in preventing sun damage  is  knowing  the  pros and  cons  of   sun exposure .  And  now  that  you  do, here’s   a few steps  you can do  to downplay  the   harmful rays  of the  sun:
  • 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.
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