With summer upon us, we welcome backyard barbeques, pool parties, beach trips and weekends at the lake, soaking in beautiful rays while spending time with family and friends. This exposure actually serves a vital health function, providing our primary source for the vitamin D family, helping our bodies absorb calcium, boosting our immune systems, promoting mental wellness and aiding weight loss. During these important times outdoors, however, we must remember that overexposure always does more harm than good.
Now is the perfect time to begin a yearlong habit of protecting our skin and eyes from the damaging effects of the sun.
The sun itself emits three types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, known as UVA, UVB and UVC radiation. The Earth’s ozone layer absorbs nearly all UVC waves and most UVB radiation. UVA, however, penetrates the ozone layer, while some UVB waves also reach the Earth’s surface. Both UVA and UVB radiation can affect our health by damaging skin and eyes, placing us at risk for vision problems, premature aging and skin cancers.
Several tools can help us avoid too much sun exposure, minimizing the risks that come with it.
- Covering Up: Tightly-woven clothing blocks light, and we should wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, pants and sunglasses whenever possible. To gauge how much protection our clothing offers, we can place a hand between single layers of clothing and a light source. If we see our hands through the fabric, the clothes do not provide enough protection.
- Seeking Shade: UV rays pose the greatest risk between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so staying in the shade during these times will further protect skin. We should remember, however, that the sun can still damage skin on cloudy days. A shadow test helps us measure the sun’s intensity: the shorter our shadows, the stronger the sun’s rays.
- Wearing Sunscreen: According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, the majority of people only apply 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. We should use sunscreens with a minimum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30, and we often need higher SPF sunscreens for children. We should apply at least one ounce (a palmful) of sunscreen every two hours, reapplying more often when swimming or sweating. Lastly, we cannot forget about exposed skin while driving extended periods during the heat of the day. Many side windows do not offer UV protection, so we should use a sunscreen or consider applying a legal window tint to our vehicles.
- Wearing Sunglasses: The most effective sunglasses block glare and 99 to 100 percent of UV rays. We should buy sunglasses with polarized lenses and a wraparound shape that protects our eyes and its surrounding skin from all angles.
With the proper precautions, we can enjoy those summer rays and know our healthcare providers can help with any problems we might have after being in the sun.
St. Bernards Dermatology Clinic accepts appointment requests at https://www.stbernards.info/locations/st-bernards-dermatology#appointmentForm.