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Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

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Though the sun provides us with vitamin D and other beneficial nutrients, it can also harm us with ultraviolet rays. UVA rays from the sun can damage skin, put you at risk for cancer, and age you prematurely if we don’t take precautions, and UVB rays can burn you.

What UV Light Can Do To Your Body

Did you know that one American dies from skin cancer every day, and more than 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure? UV rays can also cause skin disorders, pre-malignant skin growths, moles, freckles and premature aging.

They may damage your eyes, encouraging tissue growth that can block vision (pterygium) and degeneration of the part of the retina where your visual perception is best (macula). Sun exposure can also lead to cataracts, in which the lens of the eye gets cloudy.

UV radiation has also been known to suppress and weaken immune systems. Sunburns too, while temporary, can hurt. Severe sunburn leads to cramps, weakness, fever, chill, vomiting and headaches, and occasional infections.

Using Sunscreen

Sunscreens often come with broad spectrum protection, against both UVA and UVB rays, and will usually give you a sun protection factor number. This refers to the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays.

You want a value that’s higher than 30; a lower one may protect you from burning but not from skin cancer. SPF 30 means that you get the equivalent of one minute of UVB exposure for every 30 minutes you’re in the sun; your protection rate is about 96.7 percent.

Higher SPF numbers do offer slightly more protection, but no sunscreen will completely guard you from UV light. Some health experts recommend not using sunscreens with SPF 50 or higher because they give people a false sense of security, and don’t get reapplied properly.

Remember to use sunscreen liberally 20-30 minutes before going out, and reapply often throughout the day.

Other Means of Protection

Avoiding the sun is not a realistic prevention measure, but beyond sunscreen, there are some ways you can shield yourself. Wear a hat and sunglasses. Stay in the shade when possible, especially during the prime daylight hours of 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wear clothes, which offer sun protection. Don’t use tanning beds and lamps, because they increase your risk of skin cancer.

Make sure to wear sunscreen daily, because your risk for skin cancer builds up with every additional exposure to UV light.

Even in the middle of winter with clouds overheard, dangerous rays can pierce clouds and be reflected at you by water, sand, and concrete. Protect yourself and your children so you can enjoy sunny days.