Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sun safety tips

Sun safety tipsSure many people love the summer sun. The sun's rays make us feel good, and in the short term, make us look good. Sunlight helps our bodies create vitamin D. Of course, it's impossible to avoid the sun — who wants to hide indoors when it feels so great to get outside and be active? But our love affair isn't a two way street. Exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces and is the number one cause of skin cancer.

In fact, sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun's ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers breakdown, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily -- taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you're young, it will definitely show later in life.

Dermatologists recommend sun protection, which includes but is not limited to regular use of sunscreen, for all their patients, including those with acne. Research shows that most cases of skin cancer can be prevented with sun protection. Sun protection also can help prevent sunburn in patients using topical retinoids, which increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent sun-related skin problems.

• Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, even if it's cloudy or you don't plan on spending a lot of time outdoors. If you sweat a lot or go swimming, reapply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours (even if the bottle says the sunscreen is waterproof).

• Choose a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for the words "broad spectrum protection" or UVA protection in addition to the SPF of 15 or greater. Select a sunscreen that says "nonacnegenic" or "noncomedogenic" on the label to help keep pores clear.

• The sun's rays are strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, so make sure you reapply sunscreen frequently and take breaks indoors if you can. If your shadow is longer than you are tall, then it's a safer time to be in the sun (you should still wear sunscreen, though).

• We all know that the sun can damage skin, but did you know it can contribute to eye problems, too? Protect your face and eyes with a hat and sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.

• Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds causes skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

• Wear protective clothing. A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, and the back or your neck. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.
• Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

• Use shade wisely. Seek shade when UV rays are the most intense, but keep in mind that shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection. Remember the shadow rule: "Watch your shadow – Short shadow, seek shade!"

Keep in mind the qualities of your skin type to provide better sun protection:
Type I: Very fair skin, freckling; blonde, red, or brown hair. Always burns easily. Never tans.
Type II: Fair skin; blond, red or brown hair. Always burns easily. Tans minimally.
Type III: Brown hair and eyes. Burns moderately. Tans gradually and uniformly to a light brown color.
Type IV: Light brown skin. Dark hair and eyes. Burns minimally. Always tans well to a moderate brown.
Type V: Brown skin. Dark eyes and hair. Rarely burns, tans profusely to a dark brown.
Type VI: Brown-black skin. Dark eyes and hair. Never burns. Deeply pigmented.