Sun Protection 101: How To Protect Your Skin From Harmful Rays
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. Experts predict that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, and studies show more than two people in the U.S. die every hour from the disease.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
You guessed it–unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is a top factor associated with developing skin cancer. Though we all need some exposure to the sun for our body to make Vitamin D (a vitamin that helps absorb calcium for stronger and healthier bones), too much unprotected exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can cause skin cancer, as well as skin damage and skin aging, eye damage, and even immune system suppression.
How Much Sun Exposure is Too Much?
It’s sunny outside, so you apply sunscreen. But what should you do if the forecast calls for cloudy skies? We recommend you apply sunscreen then, too.
The reality is since we can’t see or feel the intensity of UV light that comes from the sun, it’s difficult to know when and to what extent it’s damaging our skin. Though protecting our skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays is something we tend to be more mindful of in the sunny, summer months, UV radiation can also be present when it’s cooler outside and even on cloudy days, too, when the sun isn’t necessarily shining bright.
So how much sun is too much?
Intensive and frequent sunbathing, as well as any type of prolonged exposure to the sun (working or playing outside, for example) without sunscreen is just simply too much for your skin to handle. Not only does it put you at increased risk for skin cancer, but you’re also more likely to see early signs of skin aging like wrinkles, dark spots, and loss of skin elasticity.
Who Needs Sun Protection?
Contrary to popular belief, everyone should use sun protection. But do people with darker skin who tan easily need sunscreen, too? You bet they do. Put simply. there is no such thing as a healthy tan. Any change in your natural skin color is a sign of skin damage. In fact, everytime your skin color changes after sun exposure, your risk of developing sun-related ailments increases. Whether you’re fair-skinned or naturally tan, you should wear protection anytime your skin is exposed to the sun.
How To Protect Yourself
The truth is, sunscreen should be your last line of defense for protecting your skin. Let’s be clear, you should definitely use sunscreen daily, and when you’re exposing your skin to the sun for a prolonged period of time, you should reapply sunscreen often, as well. However, it’s best to combine sunscreen with other forms of sun protection to protect all of your exposed skin from the damaging effects of the sun’s harmful rays.
The physicians and providers at Dermatology Consultants in Atlanta, Georgia recommend you consistently use the following forms of sun protection:
- Limit your exposure to the sun and minimize the time you spend outdoors, especially between 11 am and 3 pm.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants if you must be outside when the UV index signals great potential for sun damage.
- Consider sun-protection clothing with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating of 30 or bove.
- Protect your eyes with UV-blocking sunglasses
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers the entire top of your head and shades your face, ears, and neck from sun exposure.
- Use a dermatologist-recommended sunscreen product that’s at least SPF of 30 or higher.
At Dermatology Consultants, we sell a variety of dermatologist-recommended sunscreens and sun protection products. To shop our selection and to purchase sunscreen online, click here.
Advice From The Experts: Schedule a Skin Check Today
Maybe you spent your teens and twenties tanning the summers away. Or, perhaps you’ve always been conscience about protecting your skin from the sun. Either way, it’s never too late, or too early, for an adult to begin seeing a dermatologist for an annual skin exam.
During an annual skin check, one of our board-certified dermatologists, physicians assistants, or nurse practitioners will examine your skin from head to toe for any signs of sun damage, suspicious spots, or moles that we feel need to be monitored or should require further treatment. You will have the opportunity to ask us any questions about your skin and we will provide our expert opinion on treatment options, products, and forms of sun protection that are best for you.
To schedule your annual skin check at our Dermatology Consultants practice in Atlanta, click here. To schedule a skin check with a provider at our Dermatology Consultants practice in Covington, click here.