Sun Exposure – How Does It Effect Your Skin

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Sun exposure, once upon a time, was considered to be a healthy benefit of any outdoor activity. And sunlight does have an important role to play in the efficient functioning of skin cells and the healthy growth of our bodies. However, the ill-effects of the ultraviolet radiations of the sun outweigh the benefits of sunlight and make it necessary for us to protect our skin against sun exposure.

UV Radiations of the Sun

Sunlight consists of a broad spectrum of high frequency ultraviolet rays - UVA and UVB radiation that penetrate through the skin surface and cause intrinsic damage within the skin cells. Visible signs of sun damage include tanning, development of freckles and sunburns. Apart from this, the UV radiations also cause intrinsic damage in the long run that results in development of wrinkles, fine lines, age spots, and sagging skin. Although the body's defense system is able to repair the external damage, the internal damage builds up over the years and leads to premature aging and in severe cases is also known to cause skin cancer.

Protection against Sun Exposure

Sun protection is a lifelong process that begins at infancy and should be continued throughout life. Research states that we get about 80 per cent of the total lifetime sun exposure in the first 18 years of our lives. This is why it is important to protect the skin against sun exposure right from the childhood so that there are no aftereffects later in life.

Here are some tips to protect your skin against sunlight this summer.

Wear a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

Sunlight consists of three types of rays - UVA, UVB and UVC, out of which the UVC rays are the most powerful and damaging. But fortunately, UVC rays are absorbed by the ozone layer and thus do not reach. However, our skin needs to be protected against the UVA and UVB rays of the sunlight. Therefore, wear a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum sunscreen protection and protects against the UVA as well as the UVB rays. Here are some tips to choosing an effective sunscreen.

The sunscreen should contain ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide that reflect off the UV rays of the sun.

Consider the SPF amount of the sunscreen. Use at least an SPF 30 sunscreen. The SPF of the sunscreen should be high enough to keep your skin protected against the sunlight for a long period of time. An SPF 30 sunscreen filters 96.7% of the UVB rays.

Consider the Sunscreen SPF

If your extend of exposure to sunlight is very limited like when you are running errands, walking to the car etc., then an SPF 15 sunscreen should be enough for you. However, if you need to spend longer amounts of time in the sunlight like when you are exercising, mowing the lawn or playing, then you would need at least an SPF 30 sunscreen. Moreover, if you have extremely fair skin then you should consider using an SPF 50 sunscreen that offers about 99 per cent sun protection. This is because fair skinned people lack melanin and are highly sensitized to the sun rays. An SPF 50 sunscreen is also recommended for people who are taking medications that increase the skin's susceptibility to sunburns or have a medical history of skin cancer in the family.

Expiration Dates of Sunscreens

First of all, don't use sunscreens (or any skin care product) that is past their expiration dates. Check your sunscreen bottle or tube for its expiry period and immediately throw them away if they are past their prime. If there is no expiration period mentioned, then it is advisable to dispose of sunscreens after a year. Also, make sure you store your sunscreen in a cool dark place so that they don't lose their efficiency and last longer.

Use Enough Amount of Sunscreens

One of the most common mistakes people make while using sunscreens that render them ineffective is that they don't use enough. Ideally, take an ounce of the sunscreen, about the amount of a shot glass and slather it all over the exposed areas of your body. Remember, if you are not applying a thick layer, it would not protect the skin against sunlight. Also, make sure you reapply after every 2 hours, especially if you are swimming or have been sweating a lot. Look for water proof or water-resistant sunscreens. Waterproof sunscreens guarantee 80 minutes of protection while water-resistant sunscreens provide only 40 minutes of protection.

Product Suggestions:

La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX

Obagi Physical UV Block SPF 32

iS Clinical SPF 25 Treatment Sunscreen

Nia 24 Sun Damage Prevention SPF 30

Dr. Marilynn Syrett is a graduate from Western University of Health Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine Of The Pacific. She has authored several articles about protecting the skin against sunlight and reviewed many sunscreen products like Obagi Physical UV Block SPF 32 and iS Clinical SPF 25 Treatment Sunscreen.

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