Make a Habit of Preventing Sun Damage

Since summer is officially here and we all want to be outdoors, it is important to remember the risks associated with overexposure to the sun and take some daily precautions to minimize those risks.

The risks are well known. They range from the superficial (brown spots, red or scaly spots, dryness and wrinkles) to the dangerous (skin cancer). But how do we avoid them? That’s the tricky part.

Sometimes a day at the beach can turn out to be more sunburned than sand-filled. If your skin doesn’t produce an adequate amount of the protective melanin pigment, the sun’s ultraviolet rays will kill your superficial skin cells. Even a mild sunburn with a little redness completely destroys the top layer of the epidermis.

Despite the risks of sun exposure, many people get lazy when it comes to protecting their skin—or they just can’t resist the myth that a tan makes them look healthier.

In search of “safe” tanning, some people resort to tanning booths or beds, convinced that the UVA radiation in these machines is the non-burning type. In fact, UVA rays penetrate the skin even more deeply than UVB rays, and so overexposure to them is even more dangerous when it comes to the risk of cancer.

About one million Americans were diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in 2005. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the disease makes up one in three cancers diagnosed in this country.

Fortunately, there is plenty you can do to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun.

As the sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to stay indoors during this time frame—or if you must be outside, cover up and wear sunscreen. It’s proven that hats and clothing made of dark, tightly woven materials absorb ultraviolet light better than cotton fabrics in lighter shades. Dry fabrics offer more protection than wet ones.

Make it a habit to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that contains zinc oxide and is chemical-free and natural. (Use waterproof sunscreen if you’ll be swimming.) Be sure to spread it on thick, applying it 20 to 30 minutes before

exposure to allow your skin to properly absorb it—and reapplying it often if you are sweating or getting wet.

If you have a fair complexion, consider applying sunscreen before you go to bed. This will allow it to be thoroughly absorbed into the superficial skin layer. Then, the next day, apply the usual coat a half hour before you leave home. Don’t forget to use lip balm with an SPF of 15 and to moisturize around your eyes.

Finally, make sure that you take in an ample amount of vitamin D, either through supplements or by incorporating it into your diet. It has also been suggested that drinking green tea can prevent sun damage.

It’s never too late to begin a new chapter in your skin-care routine. Now is the time to protect yourself from the sun so you can avoid wrinkles and spots and maintain beautiful, glowing skin.