The Sun – friend or foe ? A little sun protection chat

Today I thought I would do a little research on a very hot topic : the sun and its damaging rays (the summer is getting closer and closer!). Unfortunately the sun rays are getting stronger and stronger so we need to be aware of their harming properties and take the necessary protective measures. I hope you’ll bear with me through this long and scientific-like post; it is important for your health and that of your loved ones ! If you love them, protect them !

Sun protection is essential to skin cancer prevention – about 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun [the sun’s ultraviolet A (long-wave) and ultraviolet B (shortwave) rays].

Why are UVA and UVB so dangerous ?

Both UVA and UVB, however, penetrate the atmosphere and play an important role in conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), and skin cancers. They also suppress the immune system, reducing your ability to fight off these and other maladies. By damaging the skin’s cellular DNA, excessive UV radiation produces genetic mutations that can lead to skin cancer.

Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA throughout our lifetime. UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Although they are less intense than UVB, UVA rays are present with relatively equal intensity during all daylight hours throughout the year, and can penetrate clouds and glass.

UVA, which penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB, has long been known to play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging). UVA contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers. UVA is the dominant tanning ray, and we now know that tanning, whether outdoors or in a salon, causes cumulative damage over time. A tan results from injury to the skin’s DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer.

UVB, the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, tends to damage the skin’s more superficial epidermal layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging.

Protective measures :  

Protect yourself from UV radiation, both indoors and out. Always seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM. And since UVA penetrates glass, consider adding flat, tinted UV-protective film to your car’s side and rear windows as well as to house and business windows. This film blocks up to 99.9 percent of UV radiation and lets in up to 80 percent of visible light.

You can enhance your sun safety simply by learning to evaluate everyday fabrics’ sun protection qualities and choosing those with the best protection. For instance, bright- or dark-colored, lustrous clothes reflect more UV radiation than do pastels and bleached cottons; and tightly woven, loose-fitting clothes provide more of a barrier between your skin and the sun. Finally, broad-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses help shield the sensitive skin on your head, neck, and around the eyes – areas that usually sustain a lot of sun damage.

                                                 Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and UV radiation
A sunscreen’s efficacy has been measured by its sun protection factor, or SPF. SPF is not an amount of protection per se. Rather, it indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without the product.

For instance, someone using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen. An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93 percent of the sun’s UVB rays; SPF 30 protects against 97 percent; and SPF 50, 98 percent. The Skin Cancer Foundation maintains that SPFs of 15 or higher are necessary for adequate protection.

Since both UVA and UVB are harmful, you need protection from both kinds of rays. To make sure you’re getting effective UVA as well as UVB coverage, look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, plus some combination of the following UVA-screening ingredients: stabilized a avobenzone, ecamsule (a.k.a mexoryl), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide. You may see the phrases multi spectrum, broad spectrum or UVA/UVB protection on sunscreen labels, and these all indicate that some UVA protection is provided but not very clearly.

Prevention Guidelines : 

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not burn.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Usa a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.

Source info and photos : skincancer.org ; who.int  

I hope my research was useful to you in order to make you understand the outmost importance of being protected from the sun. The Sun is indeed our friend but also our foe ; therefore we must prevent rather than cure ! Use sunscreen protection and take good care of all your loved ones !  Until next time ,  Love, M

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A dose of English :
foe – enemy
to tan – to make (a person or a person’s skin) darker by exposure to the sun
to bleach – to make white or colorless
rim – bor de palarie

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