Many enjoy the leisure of laying in the sun, relaxing their way through a quiet and peaceful day. Others thrive at play, whether as children outside on a bright sunny day or adults simply enjoying the out of doors. There is just something that seems to draw us to the sun, the light and the warmth. But that attraction humans have to the sun can cause some serious problems as we get older due to the damage that the ultraviolet radiation that occurs from that exposure. So, the questions; what protection do we need and how much should we use?
Why Do We Need Protection?
Whether it’s a warm bright sunny day or a cloudy one, the damaging effects of the sun’s radiation are present. This is a reality due to two different types of ultraviolet radiation; Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB), each with it’s own distinct damaging effect. Use of a safe sunscreen is mandatory for your good health.
The largest threat to aging our skin comes from the Ultraviolet A (UVA) form. This one is more prevalent in the daylight hours but can penetrate the cloud cover on darker days, still causing unseen damage to your skin. Basically, this one form alone contributes to over 90% of the total radiation exposure to most humans. But, let’s not dismiss Ultraviolet B (UVB) either. Most of this form of radiation is absorbed by our earth’s ozone layer, but the balance to gets through can cause damage to the superficial epidermal layers of the skin and account for most sunburns that people develop.
Either form of ultraviolet radiation can, and does, cause problems such as skin cancers, early signs of aging and wrinkling. Protection from these harmful forms of radiation, therefore, is of the utmost importance for those wanting to maintain and keep their optimal health.
How Much Protection Do You Need?
A good rule of thumb for using a safe sunscreen is to keep the skin moist. Sunscreens will absorb into the skin but will also shed off the skin when exposed to moisture. That being said, a ‘waterproof’ sunscreen can’t really be ‘waterproof’ as it will wash off with water.
Apply your sunscreen liberally at least 15 minutes prior to your sun exposure if you are sunbathing or swimming. Then consider reapplying every 2 hours while exposed to sun and perhaps more often when perspiring or swimming.
The key is to keep the skin moist with sunscreen. Don’t be overly concerned that you may not tan as much if you keep applying, as no sunscreen can completely block the effects of the ultraviolet radiation. If you want more tan, consider using some of the newer cosmetics that offer you a safer tanning effect without sun exposure. Additionally, if you are concerned about basic daily exposure to the sun, consider using creams or cosmetics that offer SPF (Sun Protection Factor) coverage that is in line with your type of work or age group.
Learning to read the labels and learn about the SPF of your selection will lead you to better protection and results. Always select a good broad-spectrum sunscreen for maximum protection. At least, an SPF 15 or better that contains active ingredients such as zinc oxide, avobenzone and titanium dioxides is recommended. Be sure to check for the ingredients though, as even an SPF of 50 might not be as effective as you think.
The key is protection against the sun damage and its radiation, not getting a better tan. And, if you bought a tube of sunscreen at the beginning of the summer, and still have most of it left you simply weren’t using enough!
We must all remember that we are not getting any younger. Our skin is aging as we are and the damage that we inflicted on our skin in our younger years will catch up with us eventually. Keeping this in mind, be sure that children also get the protection they need at an early age, and educate them accordingly. Learning to do it right at a young age will give them the advantage of others that learn by trial and error. Doing so may save them from many of the problems that can result from overexposure to the sun.
Also, watch for the tale-tale signs of skin problems on yourself and your children such as:
- excessive drying of the skin
- freckles forming more often
While these may not actually indicate the beginning of a skin damage problem, caution should be used and follow-up as needed with your healthcare provider. Using a safe sunscreen in a liberal amount will help you to protect your precious skin and still enjoy the warmth of the sun within reason.