Summer is a great time for picnics, ball games and lazy days out in the sun. But, along with the enjoyment sunshine may bring, there are also risks associated with overexposure. To most, a sun kissed tan makes us feel more confident, attractive and healthy. A suntan is a natural defense to ultraviolet light, but unfortunately the protection a suntan offers is only minimal and additional steps need to be taken to prevent further permanent skin damage. Protection now means minimized risks later.
Skin damage is caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light. There are two types of UV light that can harm your skin: UVA and UVB. UVA light can prematurely age the skin, cause wrinkles and the loss of elasticity, while UVB rays are responsible for causing your skin to burn. Overexposure to both can lead to skin cancer as well as a number of eye problems.
In order to optimally protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun, it is important you take a whole health approach.
• Avoid exposure during peak hours
• Wear appropriate clothing and protection
• Use sunscreen
• Protect your skin through proper nutrition
First, understand when to avoid the sun. Typically the sun’s rays are at their peak between 10am and 2pm. If possible, avoid exposure during these hours. If you need to be out in the sun during this period wear clothing which minimizes exposed skin and do not forget your eyes. Sunglasses and hats are not only fashion accessories but extremely important to help block the UV rays which can cause cataracts and macular degeneration of the eyes.
Since avoiding the sun is not always a realistic option, it is important to protect your skin with the use of an appropriate sunscreen. With all the options on the market today, choosing the correct sunscreen can seem daunting. There are three important factors to consider.
1. Choose a product which has broad spectrum coverage, meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB light.
2. Look for a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15; this will block approximately 90% of UVB rays.
3. Keeping it on the skin is key, therefore selecting a water-resistant product will offer extended protection when your skin is exposed to water or sweating. For the best results, reapply often.
Another important and often overlooked aspect of sun protection is nutrition. Research has shown antioxidants found in certain foods can help protect the skin against sun damage and skin cancer. Foods rich in antioxidants include dark-colored grapes, blueberries, dark green vegetables and sweet potatoes. If you are looking for a great tasting and healthy summer drink, consider making a fruit smoothie or a refreshing iced green tea. Green tea contains catechin polyphenols which are very strong antioxidants. In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, participants who consumed green tea daily for 12 weeks noticed greater skin elasticity, better hydration, reduced roughness and less ultraviolet-induced reddening of the skin. So remember, taking steps to ensure a lifetime of healthy skin is not only a matter of what you put on your body but also what you put in it.
Whether you get incidental, moderate, or prolonged exposure to the sun, you will want to take measures to protect you and your family from its potential damaging effects. Now is the perfect time to take action against those effects. By knowing the precautions to take and practicing a prevention regimen you will optimize your skin’s appearance and function. The extra attention and care you give to it now will reap multiple long term benefits down the road. The best way for you and your family to enjoy those sun-filled days is with peace of mind and confidence knowing you have taken proper steps to ensure healthy skin from the inside out!