Our weather has been touch and go (but mostly go), so when the spring sun finally shows up or you give up and hop on a plane to Mexico, don’t forget about sun protection. Please take a minute to read about sun protection and sun damage correction and enjoy the sun in a healthy way . Whether enjoying the spring sunshine at home or travelling to a tropical paradise, here are a few truths about sun protection myths and a few tips to keep your skin healthy.
“It’s winter I don’t need sunscreen”
Up to 80% of UV rays can travel through cloud, fog and haze. Sunburn, free radical damage and photo aging all still occur on overcast spring days.
“I use sunscreen every morning, I’m protected”
Even broad-spectrum sunscreens that claim to be long lasting provide protection for approximately two to three hours. Sun protection needs to be reapplied regularly throughout the day, and more so when sweating or engaging in water activities.
“I tan easily, so my skin is safe in the sun”
A tan does little to protect against sunburn or skin cancer — tans and sunburn are both the result of sun damage. A deep dark tan is only equivalent to an SPF 4 sunscreen, which does nothing to protect you from long-term damage.
“Sun exposure is needed to absorb healthy Vitamin D”
The skin can only make a limited amount of Vitamin D and after 10 minutes it is saturated.
“Skin cancer is not a major risk.”
Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. When skin cancer is detected early, it is not necessarily life threatening, but surgery can leave disfiguring scars. If left untreated squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma can spread and become deadly.
“All sunscreens are the same and irritate my skin”
Mineral-based sunblock containing zinc or titanium oxide sits on the surface of the skin, physically blocking the sun’s rays immediately after application. Mineral SPF is often a much more natural or pure product and is ideal for sensitive skin because it causes fewer reactions or breakouts. Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s rays. Some chemical filters can scatter sunrays, but still mostly just absorb and alter the rays to prevent sunburn. Chemical filters tend to be more irritating to skin and can cause allergic reactions. They also require application 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
“How can I enjoy the sun and have healthy skin?”
The first is to stay covered with appropriate clothing. Clothes provide chemical-free and inexpensive sun protection. Most importantly is a wide-brimmed hat that adequately keeps the sun off your face and ears. It is important to remember that the sun is the strongest and most harmful between 10 am and 4 pm, so covering up and seeking shade when possible is the best protection. Secondly, invest in quality sunscreen or sunblock with “broad” or “full spectrum SPF of 30-45 (higher than SPF 45 just means more chemicals and a false sense of protection) and use them every day. These will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. (UVA breaks down the collagen and skin structure year-round, through windows even during the winter months and UVB causes sunburn predominantly during peak summer hours).
Treating sunburn & long-term damage
If you do get sunburned topical treatments such as fresh aloe vera gel, a chilled green tea compress or undiluted apple cider vinegar can be very soothing. Skin damage caused by prolonged exposure and burns is a different matter. Sun exposure can break down collagen, which essentially forms the skin’s scaffolding, and can develop brown spots or dilated vessels that are visible on the surface of the skin. Medical lasers are capable of treating most cosmetic concerns caused by sun damage, but it is important to seek medical advice from a medical doctor, regarding any unusual spots as early detection of any skin cancer development is key.