Why (& How) to Protect Yourself & Your Littles From the Sun
Let’s be honest; there is no safe way to tan. It’s important to understand the science behind sun (don’t worry, there’s no test after) – just a few important facts that could save your life, or at least keep you looking younger longer. Awesome, right?
The sunlight that reaches our skin is made up of two types of harmful rays: long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA rays age our skin and UVB rays burn it. Overexposure to either damages the skin (there is also a third type – the shortest and strongest – UVC, which are absorbed by the ozone layer and don’t typically reach our skin).
While ultraviolet radiation does have benefits (it kills germs, treats some skin conditions and helps form vitamin D in our bodies), harm comes with exposure. It can cause skin and eye damage as well as weakening of the immune system. It is important to keep exposure as low as possible.
A tan or sunburn is proof that the skin has been damaged. Overexposure to UV rays can also cause premature aging effects, likewrinkles, blotchiness, dark patches and precancerous skin changes. NOTE: sun damage is cumulative. Long-term, daily exposure adds up andcan cause damage in the skin cells’ DNA. If the damage is severe, you may develop skin cancer.
Sunglasses that provide UVA and UVB protection are important because reflections off water, sand, snow, concrete and glass can inflame the skin-liketissue within minutes of exposure. UV light can causeclouding, non-cancerous tissue growths, vision loss, and cancer of the eyelid.
Weakened immune system and increased infections
UV rays can suppress your body’s ability to resist bacteria, which increases your risk of infection. They can also cause smallpox lesions to grow and can reactivate Herpes simplex Virus I and II (which cause cold sores).
This is why keeping your skin protected is imperative. How do you do this? Simple:
- Cover up. Wear light-coloured, long-sleeved shirts, pants and a wide-brimmed hat made from breathable fabric. Make sure sunglasses provide both UVA and UVB protection.
- Limit your time in the sun. Keep out of the sun between 11am and 4pm. Look for places with shade, like trees, awnings and umbrellas.
- Use the UV Index forecast. Local radio and TV stations, websitesand weather apps on smartphoneshave a UV forecast. When it is 3 or higher, wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
- Use sunscreen. Find the right sunscreen for you and your kids and use it, properly. Generously apply to any parts of the body that are exposed to the sun. Reapply every 2 hours if you’re in direct sun. A sufficient amount for the average body is about 2-3 tablespoons.
- Avoid tanning beds. If you do use them, understand the risks and protect yourself.
- Ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist if medications you take can cause sun sensitivity (certain antibiotics and antihistamines and other drugs can).
- Don’t forget those kissable lips. Be sure to use a lip balm that’s SPF 15 or higher.
- Don’t do the double ouch. Use extra caution near the water, sand and snow as they can reflect and strengthen the sun’s rays.
- The Vitamin D defense. Don’t claim that you need to sunbathe to get enough Vitamin D. You can get your daily dose in about 10 minutes…or from a supplement. Besides, getting enough of the “sunshine vitamin” is useless if you develop skin cancer.
- Keep the wee-est of wees out of the sun. Sunscreens should only be used on babes over 6 months.
- Examine your skin. Yep. From head to toe every month and see your physician annually for a professional skin exam. Early detection is best.