Posted in Skincare
Summer is here, and that means time to hit the beaches and pools under the warm sun. However, it is important to remember that even though the sun is a source of life and fun, its rays can cause serious skin damage. Effectively protecting your skin during the sunniest days of the year should be a major priority.
How the Sun Causes Skin Damage
The sun emits a lot of rays, but ultraviolet rays pose the largest threat to your skin. There are two main types that reach the surface of the Earth and, by proxy, us: UVA and UVB. Both are linked to damaged skin cells, including wrinkles, sunburn and cancer. UV rays make up a small portion of the sun’s rays, but they are still numerous enough to cause injurious or fatal damage if not sufficiently protected against.
What Stops UV Rays
The most obvious solution is staying inside. UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so you should try to avoid going out between those times to avoid being left with sun-damaged skin. If you do go out, make sure to wear clothing that covers you adequately. Big floppy hats and parasols can let you enjoy the warmth while keeping you shaded. Also, don’t assume that your clothes are automatically blocking the rays. Hold a shirt up to the sun. If you can see the light shining through, the rays can permeate the fabric as well.
Wearing sunscreen adds significant protection from skin damage, and should always be a high priority if you’re going to be out in the sun in a bathing suit. Remember, the amount of sunscreen you use is as important as SPF, and how often you apply it. Your face requires about a teaspoon, and your body needs enough to fill a shot glass. It is essential to reapply sunscreen every two hours if you plan to be out in the sun. Higher SPF sunscreens can help block UVA rays, but you should still take regular breaks in the shade.
Other things to look for in sunscreens are the chemicals retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone. The FDA has linked the former to skin tumors and lesions when used on skin exposed to sunlight; the latter increases the chances of developing melanoma, according to the Environmental Working Group. Read your labels carefully.
In the hot sun, your skin is working overtime to cool you off through sweat. The evaporation of sweat is actually what lowers your skin temperature, but it costs you a lot of the body’s water reserves. Drink lots of fluids to maintain a healthy level of hydration, especially if you plan to drink alcohol or caffeine. In those cases, you should consume roughly three times as much water as caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
Check the UV Index
The National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency measure the UV Index, the amount of UV rays that reach Earth daily. They factor in aspects like cloud cover to determine how safe going outside during a given time. You can get a look at the index on the EPA website, and it’s even enabled for mobile phones and tablets now. The higher the level, the greater the risk of skin damage.
Treating Sun-Based Skin Damage
For one reason or another, you’ve got a sunburn. The damage is done, but there are still things you can do to alleviate the pain. Treat the burned areas with cool washcloths or a cold shower. Use moisturizers with aloe vera or soy to sooth the skin. If you have blisters, do not pop them, as they are a possible source of infection. Treat a sunburn like you would any other burn: your skin is damaged and its integrity is compromised. Keep it clean, cool and protected.
If you feel dizzy or sick, you need to seek medical attention immediately. Drink lots of water, as sunburns make you very dry. If you go back outside, covering up is mandatory to avoid further damage. Keep an eye on your skin as it heals, making sure to look out for odd-shaped or colored moles or sots. These can be a sign of melanoma and should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible.
Houston Skin Care and Protection
Your skin is your first line of defense against any number of diseases and damaging agents. Take care of it while the sun is at its most powerful these next few months, and it will continue to take of you for years to come. Please contact us if you have any more questions about keeping your skin healthy inside and out.