The weather’s warming up, the family vacations are planned and the kids are nearly out of school for the summer – what could be better? As the sun becomes more intense throughout the summer months, you might start to notice that it takes less and less time for your skin to start getting sunburnt while participating in outdoor activities. And while it’s always nice to get some Vitamin D and have glowing, radiant skin, the sun’s ultraviolet rays can be damaging to your skin if left unprotected.
If you are planning a family vacation that involves traveling to a state where the sun’s ultraviolet rays are more intense, such as Florida, then you really have to think about young children and infants whose skin is at more risk for sunburn while outside. Being knowledgeable about how the sun and heat can damage your skin is the start of the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
How Can the Sun Damage Your Skin?
Although it’s hard to think about the sun doing damage to your skin while you are having fun kayaking on the river or swimming in a pool, it’s happening every second. In fact, in some areas within the United States, it can take less than 10 to 15 minutes before your skin starts to burn during the prime summer months.
So, how does the sun damage your skin? Besides the obvious pains of sunburn, which can be extremely painful and cause discomfort for a period of time, “sunburn accelerates skin aging and is a leading cause in the majority of cases of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer,” according to skincancer.org.
Did you know that pretty much anyone could get sunburned? Although some skin types are more prone to sunburn, everyone is at risk of getting sunburned especially when the UV index is high. And even when it’s not clear skies and sunshine, up to 80 percent of UV rays can penetrate clouds. Here are a few other facts from skincancer.org that may answer your questions about sunburn that you didn’t know before:
- Repeated sunburns raise your risk: For fair-skinned people, especially those with genetic predisposition, sunburn plays a clear role in developing melanoma. Research shows that the UV rays that damage skin can also alter a tumor-suppressing gene, giving injured cells less chance to repair before progressing to cancer.
- People who work or play sports outdoors have a greater risk of frequent sunburns that can result in skin cancer.
- Even one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life.
- Skin damage builds up over time starting with your very first sunburn. The more you burn, the greater your risk of skin cancer. Subsequent UV damage can occur even when there is no obvious burn.
- Five or more sunburns more than doubles your risk of developing potentially deadly melanoma.
Skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), is an abnormal growth of skin cells that is typically caused by the sun’s harmful rays. While it can be deadly, it can also be highly treatable if caught early enough. Per the AAD, “the type of skin cancer a person gets is determined by where cancer begins. If cancer begins in skin cells called basal cells, the person has basal cell skin cancer. When cells that give our skin its color become cancerous, melanoma develops.”
Fortunately, there are easy, simple ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer by practicing sun safety, which can be practiced by the whole family as a way to reduce skin cancer in the future.
Ways to Protect Your Skin from the Sun
While skin cancer doesn’t happen overnight, it can sneak up on you quickly once it starts to develop. And although being out in the sunshine feels good and does provide many benefits, it can also be your worse enemy. Did you also know that your skin is the body’s largest organ? Not only does it protect the inside of your body, but it’s also a key instrument for providing a sense of touch.
Here are some great ways that you can help reduce your skin to sun exposure:
- Sunscreens: Sunscreens have been around for quite some time and are probably one of the main defenses against getting sunburns. It comes highly recommended as the defense against sunburns and skin cancer by medical experts, and also comes in various forms, including lotions, creams, ointments, gels, wax sticks, and sprays. And to jazz it up a bit, some sunscreens even have glitter and tint to them, too.
- Finding a sunscreen with a higher SPF is good, but it’s important to just wear it in general. Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you go out and be sure to put enough on so that it takes a full minute to rub into your skin. And, although some sunscreens can be waterproof, you should always re-apply after being in the water for long periods of time because you can still get sunburnt while in the water. It’s also good to find a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection.
- Clothing and Lip Balms: One of the best ways to protect your skin against the sun’s UV rays is by covering up with clothing. Start with a hat that’s good for covering up not only your face but also your ears, which can be exposed to the sun. You can now also buy garments that are designed specifically to ward off skin-cancer-causing rays.
- Using lip balms is a great way to help protect your lips, which are a common site of skin and lip cancer. If your lips are cracked, peeling, or scaly and aren’t helped by lip balm, it may be a sign of actinic keratosis, which has the potential to progress to a deadlier form of the disease.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses are a great way to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes from the sun. Prolonged UV exposure can redden the whites of your eyes, just as the sun can burn skin. Over time, this can cause eye problems, such as cataracts and macular degeneration. When choosing sunglasses, try to look for some that have UV 400 protection, are impact-resistant, are the right color, and are the right price.
So, the next time you go outside to play with your children at the playground, try to remember to protect yourself and your family against the sun’s harmful UV rays. Children, according to the AAD, can get 80 percent of their total lifetime sun exposure by the time they turn 18. And if a blistering sunburn is part of that childhood, the risk of deadly skin cancer doubles later in life.
It’s also good to avoid tanning booths, as these can also be bad for your skin. In today’s world, they now make options for sunless tanning products that can be a great tool to achieve the look you want without damaging your skin. And, having shade protection while being outside can be a great way to avoid intense sun exposure.
“Using sun protection consistently from an early age is the strongest defense against developing skin cancer,” writes skincancer.org. However, the risk of skin cancer by age 70 is fairly high, with one in five Americans developing skin cancer by that age. So by starting knowing the facts and starting early, you can help not only yourself by your family and loved ones.