Ways To Protect Yourself From The Sun

Several ways to protect yourself from the sun. Skin cancer is on the prowl!

It's no secret that the ozone layer is being destroyed little by little every year. Recent estimates from NASA state that the ozone layer is being depleted at a rate of 4 to 6 percent each decade. With this gloomy fate shining down on us, it's time to crack down on sunscreen etiquette and get serious about our skin. It could be a matter of life or death.

Who is at risk?

If you take certain medications or have certain diseases (talk to your doctor).

If you've had skin cancer or there is a history of skin cancer in your family, especially melanoma.

Children and babies.

If you have fair skin or blond, red, or light brown hair.

If you have freckles and burn before tanning.

If you spend a lot of time outdoors or if you only get out in the sun on weekends and stay in the sun the whole time.

If you vacation or live at high altitudes. UV radiation increases 4-5% at every 1,000 feet above sea level.

So what can we do? How can we avoid the threat of developing skin cancer and still play in the sun?

Know your enemy: the Sun

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

UVA rays' damage does not show up right away. They do not cause painful sunburn, but their effects are very real and long lasting. They account for about 95% of all ultraviolet energy and release energy throughout the daylight hours. UVA's have the power do permanent damage to our DNA, as well as to the elastin and collagen fibers that make our skin firm and healthy. They can pass through all glass including windows, windshields, and sunglasses.

UVB rays do burn your skin. Though they don't delve as deep into the skin's layers as UVA's, UVB's can damage the DNA at the heart of skin cells, and are a main cause of skin cancer. UVB's can't pass through glass but they do reflect off light colors such as sand, white decks, snow, etc.

Never be fooled by cloudy skies. Clouds only block as much as 20% of all UV radiation. And don't believe that just because you're in the water you're safe against the UV rays.

Avoid Tanning Beds:

Unfortunately, people have the false belief that tanning beds are safe. They aren't. For while it was believed that the UV rays emitted from tanning beds were not harmful because the sunlamps only gave off UVA and little, if any, UVB rays. But we've now learned that UVA can cause serious skin damage, possibly the worst of all skin cancers; melanoma. Sunlamps used in homes are the same.

Invest in some good sunscreen:

Sunscreen provides us with a way to block the sunlight from exposure to our skin. It can be a confusing thing buying sunscreen. There are hordes of bottles all stating that they can protect you but how do you choose from them? Look at the SPF for starters. SPF it stands for "sun protection factor" and it measures how long you can stay exposed to the sun without burning. If you begin to tan or burn after 10 minutes, an SPF of 15 extends your protection 15 times longer. Basically put, if you burn fast invest in the highest SPF. If you don't you can go for a lower SPF.

The Myth of Sunscreen:

Most people think if they slap on some sunscreen once they'll be fine. This is very wrong - especially for children. Everyone should use sunscreen 15-30 minutes before they go outside in order for the sunscreen to take affect. A liberal amount (palm full) should be applied to each body part and should be re-applied at least every two hours, each time you come out of the water or if you've been sweating profusely. Other factors to keep in mind are wind (which dries your skin) and if you're at a high altitude (as mentioned before UV radiation increases 4-5% at every 1,000 feet above sea level).

Wear sunglasses and a hat:

Hats are perfect for protecting those sensitive skin areas such as the ears, face, nose, eyes, neck and scalp. The best hat to buy is one with a 2-3" brim but a hat with a visor and a 6" piece of material draping over the neck will also work. A baseball cap is better than nothing but it won't give you all the coverage you need.

Sunglasses are essential in protecting your eyes. Make sure that you purchase glasses that have a high UV radiation protection or you'll be wasting your money. Look for the label that states the protection. If there's no label - don't buy them. Children should also be wearing proper UV protection sunglasses, even starting at the age of one. And no, the toy sunglasses are not acceptable.

Think about what you're wearing:

It's true! Depending on what you wear, this can affect how the UV radiation from the sun will affect your skin. Wear lightweight, loose clothing as much as possible in the sun. Shirts with long sleeves and pants or long skirts are ideal. A tightly weaved cloth is the best for absorbing and reflecting the UV rays. Clothes that you can see through will not protect you as the UV rays can get through. Wet clothes also allow the sun's rays to pass through them. Be careful and mindful of what you wear.

You may think that you'll never get skin cancer but be warned. If you don't play by the rules, you'll be next in line for trouble.

Think smart and play safe - don't let the sun bring you down!

© High Speed Ventures 2011