Warm weather has arrived and summer vacation season is well underway. Basking in the warm glow of the sun can make us feel great, and in the short term, make us look good. In the long term, over-exposure to ultraviolet rays damages the fibers in the skin. Effects of sun exposure put us at higher risk of cellular damage, age spots, early wrinkling and skin cancer.
The summer season is a great reminder to use sunscreen whenever outdoors, but protection from UV radiation is important all year round.
We recently read an article about a 69-year-old man who spent the last 28 years as a truck driver. Since the man spent countless daylight hours behind the wheel and over exposure to damaging UV rays, the left side of his face looks decades older than the right side. The name for his condition is unilateral dermatoheliosis (one-sided photo aging). Even with the window closed, UVA rays can penetrate window glass if it’s not tinted enough to protect passengers inside the vehicle.
The previous example is just a reminder that UV rays can reflect off of surfaces like water and glass. Harmful UV rays can also reach you on cloudy and hazy days.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends easy options for protection from UV radiation:
- Seek shade, especially between 10:00am–3:00pm.
- Wear clothing to protect exposed skin. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. Be aware that covering up doesn’t block out all UV rays.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends products with a SPF of at least 30.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Apply sunscreen before going outside, even on slightly cloudy days, and reapply if you stay outside for more than two hours.
If you’d like more information on skin cancer, risk factors and prevention, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.