UV ray protection runs more than skin deep
Skin is the body’s largest organ, offering protection against heat, sunlight and infection. But many don’t make skin protection a high priority.
July is National Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month and Coastal Health & Wellness (CHW) is encouraging everyone to take better care of their skin. Skin helps keep internal temperature steady when the temperature around us changes and helps protect against infection. But, sun exposure can damage this important organ and lead to skin cancers, early cataract formation in the lens of the eyes and cosmetic problems like age spots and leathery skin.
“Damage can begin within 15 minutes of unprotected exposure of the sun’s rays,” said Dr. Cindy Ripsin, CHW medical director. “Lighter skinned people and people with light colored eyes are especially at risk for rapid damage, but brown and black skinned people are by no means immune to damage from the sun and need to take all the precautions of lighter skinned people.”
Protecting skin from the harmful impacts of UV radiation from the sun is simple, but requires daily diligence in this part of the country where the sun shines much of the year.
Wear proper clothing: Protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts and pants is a good option when outdoors and even when on the beach.
“It’s summer and it’s hot, but long-sleeved shirts and long pants really do provide the best protection from UV rays,” Ripsin said. “Anytime you anticipate being outdoors during this time of year, wear some type of cover-up and still apply sunscreen to all uncovered areas.”
A typical T-shirt has an SPF of lower than 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So, be sure to use other protection – like sunscreen – too. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat may protect the face, ears and neck. Baseball caps won’t protect the back of the neck or the ears so be sure to use sunscreen, 30 SPF or higher, on those parts and all other unprotected areas.
“Higher SPFs will offer a little stronger protection, but sunscreen needs to be applied and reapplied when you are in and out of the water or sweating,” Ripsin said.
A full-day outing could require one entire tube of sunscreen. Be generous when applying sunscreen to exposed skin.
Cloudy and winter weather don’t equal safety. Water, snow, sand, even the windows of a building, can reflect the damaging rays of the sun, increasing the chance of a sunburn.
Avoid the burn: Sunburns significantly increase the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Children who develop sunburns, even if they eventually tan, are at a much higher risk for skin cancer later in life. Even one burn is too many.
Find shade: If possible, stay out of the sun during peak hours, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Find a shaded location or create shade using an umbrella or wide-brimmed hat.
According to the CDC, some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration and pterygium (non-cancerous growth on the whites of the eye).
UV-resistant sunglasses block UVA and UVB rays, as well as the tender skin around eyes from sun exposure. Wrap-around style sunglasses with 99 or higher UV block should glare and block 99-100 percent of UV rays. The wrap-around style helps protect eyes from most angles.