We love the sun. In fact, many of us would probably say we experience a greater sense of happiness and motivation on sunny days as opposed to cloudy days. We love to play in it, bask in it and in Northern climates where warm weather and hot sunshine is a fleeting, seasonal occurrence – soak it in every chance we get. While that flaming orb in the sky can elevate our mood and motivation and chase away the winter chill, we must pay homage to its more perilous attributes and in doing so, enjoy it safely throughout the year. Let’s take a look at how the sun affects our skin and ways to protect our skin from its damaging rays.
The sun’s effect on the skin
The sun plays a vital role in our body’s production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for bone formation and cellular health and helps regulate the immune system. That being said, the same rays that help our bodies manufacturer vitamin D also have the potential to cause incredible damage to our skin and affect our overall wellness.
When we think of our skin and the sun we often think about, ‘working on our tan’. But how does the sun affect our skin to give us that coveted tan? Our skin contains a pigment known as melanin – the job of which is to protect our skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays. In doing its job, the skin produces more melanin in response to sun exposure, causing it to darken.
Sunburn is the result of overexposure to the sun’s UV rays and occurs when the sun penetrates beyond the outer layer of the skin and down into deeper skin layers where it can damage or kill skin cells.
Sun exposure is cumulative over the course of a lifetime and when skin cells have been repetitively and severely damaged by UV rays, skin cancer may occur. Although some skin cancer is treatable, in many cases it can be terminal.
So what can be done to protect skin against UV rays?
Fortunately, there are a lot of precautions a person can take to protect their skin from damaging UV rays.
In addition to limiting sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are most intense, staying out of the sun altogether is a great way to reduce exposure to these rays. It’s also important to be aware that even on cloudy or hazy or on cold winter days, UV rays can wreak havoc on your skin.
Choose protective clothing
When reasonable, choose a shirt and pants to cover your skin. Always wear sunglasses that protect against UVA and UVB rays as well as a hat to protect your face. You may also choose tightly-woven clothing specifically manufactured to aggressively block UV rays. Just be aware that if you can see light passing through your clothing, rays can get through too.
While shade and protective clothing are the first line of defense, sunscreen – when properly used – is an excellent second line of defense against the sun’s harmful rays. While some sunscreen provides a chemical barrier between your skin and the sun, mineral sunscreens provide a physical barrier. When choosing sunscreen, be sure to read labels! Choose a sunscreen that is both broad spectrum – which protects against both UVA and UVB rays – and one that maintains an SPF rating of 30 or higher. Reapply your sunscreen at least every two hours or when you wash or towel off. Also, throw away any expired sunscreen and keep in mind that no sunscreen protects completely.
Avoid tanning beds
This may seem obvious but it’s certainly worth mentioning. While in the depths of winter our pale skin may long for a sunkissed glow, don’t be deceived. Tanning beds give off both UVA and UVB rays and increase a person’s risk of melanoma – even more so for people who begin tanning at a tanning bed before the age of 30.
If you’re looking for products that help protect your skin against damaging UV rays or restore sun-damaged skin, we highly recommend SkinMedica® products. SkinMedica® offers numerous SPF-containing sunscreen and beauty products that keep you safe and help you maintain your natural glow.
If you would like to learn more about how you can protect your skin from harmful UV rays, we would love to talk with you. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or contact us online!