Many of us enjoy spending time outdoors especially on bright, sunny days. Some of us also bask in the sunshine soaking up its comforting warmth. Although the sun may feel good on the skin, which is our body’s largest organ, it is imperative we protect it from damaging rays even on overcast or cloudy days.
UV Rays and the Dangers of Sun Exposure
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun can cause serious damage to the skin particularly during childhood. Having just one sunburn as a child may double one’s risk of getting skin cancer later during adulthood. Because of this it is rather important to learn how the sun affects the skin and how to protect yourself.
Both types of sun rays, UVA and UVB, can kill the skin’s delicate cells. UVA rays are typically regarded as the “safer” of the two but they too can cause the skin to age prematurely. UVA rays are able to deeply penetrate the skin irreparably damaging collagen, the substance needed to maintain soft, supple skin.
UVB rays are the direct cause of sunburn which not only leads to aging and the appearance of wrinkles, freckles and sun spots, but also an increased risk of skin cancer. Roughly 90 percent of skin cancer cases are caused by sun exposure.
UV rays cause the skin to darken due to increased production of melanin, the dark pigment produced by the skin’s melanocyte cells. While it may look appealing, a suntan is anything but good for the skin. In fact, that “healthy glow” so many of us covet is actually our skin’s way of telling us it is being damaged.
Both types of sun rays are the strongest during the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. making the use of sunscreen during these times an absolute essential.
Who is Most at Risk?
Although everyone has the potential for sun damage there are some groups with an increased risk. People with fair skin, freckles, blue eyes or red hair have skin with less melanin than their counterparts with darker complexions leaving them susceptible to sunburns and sun damage.
Those whose jobs keep them outdoors such as farmers or construction workers are also at an increased risk of developing skin cancer and having sun damaged skin. Likewise, people active in outdoor sports especially those near the water, snow or sand, all of which reflects the sun’s rays, have an increased risk of overexposure.
Protecting Your Skin
Wearing adequate sunscreen during all times of sun exposure is your skin’s best line of defense against sun damage. Sunscreen should be applied generously and to all parts of the body that may be exposed to sunlight. This includes the face, ears, neck, hands and feet along with the arms and legs.
Don’t forget about times of incidental exposure, which is exposure while doing things such as driving the car, mowing the lawn or walking from your car to the house.
Wearing a hat and sunglasses while outdoors can also help to protect the skin from the sun’s potentially harmful rays.
About the author: John mostly writes about health and skin care topics. He is also contributor to eCellulitis.com , a website dedicated to all types of skin issues.