If you plan on vacationing down south or in a location that is tropical, then you need to learn the facts about how best to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun so you will not suffer from a painful sunburn during your vacation and even worse, on a long term basis you will not fall victim to skin cancer. Let us take a closer look at how best to protect the skin.
Are you aware that some people run a higher risk of developing skin cancer then other people? Certain factors predispose an individual to be more susceptible to developing skin cancer in the future then others. The more risk factors you have, the higher risk category you are likely to fall into. What are these risk factors then? The risk factors include having a fair to light skin tone; skin cancer that runs in the family; a personal history of skin problems and/or skin cancer that you have suffered in the past; repeated exposure to the sun while at work or on a recreational basis; a past history of sunburns that took place in your childhood and/or throughout your teenage years; skin that easily develops freckles, turns red quickly and easily, skin that burns easily or becomes uncomfortable feeling while out in the sun; having either blue or green eyes; having naturally blonde or auburn colored hair; and finally, having certain kinds of moles on the skin not to mention having a large percentage of moles on the body.
Being smart about protecting your skin from future sun damage is crucial at any age and be aware that it only takes one serious sunburn to increase your chances of developing skin cancer by 50 percent. It is estimated that one out of every five individuals in Canada and the United States will develop some form of skin cancer throughout their lifetime. When you break it down this ends up being an estimated one million individuals each and every year.
It is strongly espoused by the medical community that 80 percent of skin damage (or maybe even as much as 90 percent) takes place before a person turns 18 to 20 years of age. It is also important to note that one bout of overexposure to the harmful rays of the sun can cause the skin to become red, painful and sunburned and it can then bubble and peel. A bad sunburn when you are an adolescent can increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in your life. Repeated exposure on a long term basis can serve to bring about premature aging of the skin, not to mention an overabundance of freckles, wrinkles, age spots, dilated blood vessels, skin cancer and skin that looks very unhealthy because it is leathery and terribly dry. Skin that becomes this way loses its soft, supple texture and its condition tends to deteriorate over time.
For all of the reasons given above, it is essential to always put on sunscreen when you are going outside and expect to be exposed to the burning rays of the sun, even if it is just for a short span of time. If you plan to be out for an extended period of time, take the sunscreen with you and reapply it often, particularly before and after swimming and if engaging in physical activity, reapply after perspiring. Be forewarned that no one thing you do will manage to completely block out the sun and you really do not want that anyway because the sun has its good side as well. The sun provides us with healthy does of vitamin D, which everyone requires for optimum health. Using your own common sense and being savvy about the sun is so important for the health of your skin both in the present but also thinking ahead to the future. Wearing sunscreen is a must for everyone from the youngest to the oldest and it is encouraged that you take the time to learn about SPF (sun protection factor) and which one is most relevant for you. But that is not all. Protect your skin further by wearing a hat when you are outside and always choose one with a good brim on it to shield the sun. Also wear a pair of sunglasses that specifically state that they block both UVA and UVB rays. It is strongly recommended that you wear a long sleeved shirt as well as long pants (or at least longish pants) when you are outside in the sun, no matter what you are doing, be it walking, gardening, biking, lounging in the yard, etc. Cotton or cotton blends are the most appropriate choices for summertime wear, as they are the most comfortable and lightweight of all fabrics. This material also allows the skin to breathe properly.
Sunscreens and How They Work to Protect the Skin From Burning
A sunscreen is a product that contains SPF (sun protection factor) that is at least 15 but also can be higher as in SPF 30 or SPF 45. Be aware that there is no one single product that is able to entirely block out the sun from reaching the skin and that is why it is still possible to tan your skin after applying SPF 15.The word sunblock is the general, basic term for the SPF products while the word sunscreen describes the ingredients that are contained within the product.
Sunscreens work by absorbing or reflecting the rays of the sun as they reach the skin. Sunscreens come in a variety of kinds such as creams, gels, lotions, sprays, ointments, wax sticks and the latest development is a pill. The higher the sun protection factor you choose, the better protected you will be from getting a painful sunburn. For those who do not know this, the scientific name for sunburn is erythema. Sunburns more commonly come about as a result of exposure to UVB rays as opposed to UVA rays.
To be as well protected as possible from acquiring damage to your skin from the sun it is wise to choose a sunscreen that is labeled as a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against and absorb the debilitating effects of both the UVA as well as the UVB rays. All sunscreens however are not made exactly the same therefore reading the labels on the sides of the products is essential in choosing the sunscreen that is appropriate for you. For example, besides broad-spectrum sunscreens there are sunscreens that only block UVB rays as well as physical sunscreens and blocks and chemical free sunscreens.
A Look at the Different Kinds of Sunscreens
The three main categories of sunscreens include the broad-spectrum sunscreens, the chemical sunscreens and the physical sunscreens. Let us take a brief look at all three kinds.
Broad-spectrum sunscreens are those that are composed of ingredients that make it possible to absorb both UVA and UVB rays. Be aware of the fact that unless a sunscreen specifically states that it is formulated for broad-spectrum sun protection then it does not contain both UVA as well as UVB sun absorbers. To be broad-spectrum it must shield an individual from both types of damaging rays. Look for the ingredients oxybenzone or avobenzone and mexoryl in a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
A chemical sunscreen contains a protective layer of ingredients that sufficiently work to absorb ultraviolet radiation. The way this type of sunscreen works is that when UV light is absorbed by the sunscreen applied to the skin, the energy of the sun is then quickly converted into a heat source that is easily dissipated.
Physical sunscreens work in a different manner from the other types of sunscreens as they serve to block and reflect the ultraviolet radiation from the sun as opposed to doing nothing but absorbing it. Physical sunscreens contain the ingredient titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
In trying to decide which sunscreen is best for you, keep in mind that the number one overall sunscreen is one that combines the ingredients of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with the winning attributes of a physical sunscreen.
A Closer Look at UVA and UVB Rays
What exactly are UVA ands UVB rays anyway? Let us find out.
The sun gives off both visible as well as invisible light (or energy) that is known as ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is broken down into two specific categories, that of UVA and UVB rays (or UVA and UVB wavelengths). UVA rays are the most damaging to the skin of the two kinds. UVA rays are the longest rays and they penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin then do UVB rays. The UVA rays of the sun damage the skin and are to blame for sagging of the skin, premature aging as well as wrinkles. The UVA rays are the rays that cause tanning on a short-term basis but be forewarned that there really is no such thing as a safe tan. The concept of such is a fallacy. UVA rays also cause the skin to burn and are believed to be potentially carcinogenic (in other words, they are believed to cause cancer). UVB rays on the other hand affect the outer layers of the skin and are shorter and stronger rays than are the UVA rays. For the most part the skin absorbs the majority of the UVB rays that it comes in contact with. UVB rays can bring about a sunburn and they also are responsible for producing melanin which helps to promote tanning of the skin. UVB rays have the ability to make the skin age prematurely while also damaging the DNA of the skin at the same time. For these reasons protecting your skin from both UVA and UVB rays is so important.
More and more research into UVB rays has shown that these rays are a contributing factor in the development of skin cancer, in particular in the case of malignant tumors such as basal cell carcinomas (the least serious form of skin cancer), squamous cell carcinomas and malignant skin melanoma (which is the most serious and deadly type of skin cancer). UVA rays from the sun are more dangerous than UVB rays because they outnumber UVB rays by 9 to 1 and also more of them readily reach the surface of the earth. UVB rays go through daily as well as seasonal alterations, however this is not the case with UVA rays.
Our skin is constantly exposed to the damaging effects of UVA radiation. As well the UVA rays penetrate much deeper into the skin, through the outer layer of the skin, known as the epidermis and into the dermis (which is the second layer of the skin). The dermis is often deemed as the true skin but damage here is more detrimental and problematic to the health of skin than it is anywhere else. The dermis of the skin goes through a continuous renewal process until an individual reaches the age of 28 years. Upon reaching this age, a person is deemed as having skin that is mature.
It often takes many years for skin damage to show itself on the outer surface of the skin. The dermis provides what is often believed to be the firm and youthful mattress for the skin. The skin is made up of a variety of elements including blood vessels, nerve endings, collagen, elastin and ground substances (which include glycol-amino-glycans and mucopolysaccharides). Too much exposure to the harmful UVA rays of the sun causes the collagen and elastin in the skin to crack and shrink. This in turn causes the layer of the skin to become smaller thereby making the epidermis droopy, saggy and wrinkly. The blood vessels in the area permanently become dilated and this causes the skin in the damaged region to often look flushed. The melanocyte cells that are left behind in the dermis area do one of two things in relation to the skin damage, which is they either die off all together and leave a white spot on the skin or they try to overcompensate for the cells that have died and leave a brown spot in its place.