While the list of complications due to sun exposure grows longer and longer, and despite numerous warnings, the number of skin cancers are rising at an alarming rate in North America and people seek little or no protection from the sun.
We have long known the harmful, sometimes deadly effects associated with Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays and skin cancer, especially melanoma. However, Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays from the sun and from tanning beds can be even more harmful. Not only can they cause skin cancer, but they also penetrate into the deep layers of our skin without our noticing it destroying the collagen. Collagen is a protein vital to the structural integrity of the skin. When it is destroyed or weakened, the skin prematurely ages, causing brown spots, lines, fine lines and couperose to appear. As you notice these signs of premature aging, these problems need to be addressed before it is too late and much more difficult to treat.
Did you know that tanning was a twentieth century “invention”?
Never before did people sunbathe for the sheer pleasure of it. On the contrary, fair skin was favoured and everyone was carefully protected under umbrellas, hats and veils. We owe it to Coco Chanel who, in the 1920s, accidentally suffered a sunburn and thus started the fad for golden skin among her admirers. The fad lives on, despite repeated and increased warnings from public health authorities and dermatologists throughout the world.
Does that mean that we should put an end to tanning? As for all things, moderation is the key and the following advice should be used as we move from the long winter season into summer with the sun growing warmer every day:
- Always put on a sunscreen before leaving your house in the morning. Your sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30, especially if your skin is fair. Keep in mind that UVA rays are present year round and that they shine through glass. Drivers, take this as a warning: the left side of your face may age prematurely if you are not careful to protect it.
- If you are planning a day outside; gardening, camping or vacationing in a sun destination, your sunscreen should be even stronger, especially for your face. Always reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or exercise. Remember that “sport” or “water resistant” sunscreens do not last longer than the regular ones!
- Apply an adequate amount of sunscreen! People tend to underestimate the amount that is needed to adequately cover their body and for the sake of saving money they spread the smallest amount possible over the largest possible area. This is a serious mistake as it reduces the level of protection and only gives the illusion of a shield. When spread too thinly, the SPF 30 factor of a sunscreen is reduced to an SPF 10 factor and increases your chances of getting sunburned. Be generous when applying the sunscreen, especially on children.
- Avoid the sun when the rays are strongest, between 11 AM and 3 PM. Be cautious: you may think that you are protected in the shade of an umbrella or a palapa, but water and sand can reflect the sun in a way that will still harm you. When possible, it’s best to stay out of the sun during these peak hours, why not take an afternoon siesta or find cover in a cool covered place.
- If your skin is particularly sensible, hats, sunglasses, and light clothing are best suited for you as well as the protection of SPF creams.
In conclusion, having a light tan is perfectly acceptable, provided you earned it safely and wisely and you carefully followed the above-mentioned advice. Keep in mind that suntanned skin needs good hydration and that daily skin care must be adapted to the changing conditions dictated by the summer season.
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