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What’s The Big Deal About Sunscreen?

What’s The Big Deal About Sunscreen?

You know you are supposed to use sunscreen, but really understanding why may help promote diligence. When skin is exposed to the sun, it attempts to protect us by producing pigment (melanin). Although a tanned appearance may look healthier, did you know that the initial radiant glow is the first sign that UV rays have damaged the skin? So, skip the pool and the beach and you will be fine, right? Wrong.

UV Rays Explained

Avoiding direct sun exposure is important, yet it isn’t just UVB, or burning rays, we need to escape. UVB (short-wave) rays cause sunburn, sun damage and some skin cancers, while UVA rays, commonly referred to as aging rays, are long-wave rays that deeply penetrate the skin. Regardless of how cool or cloudy it may be, UVA rays damage DNA and potentially cause the most fatal form of skin cancer, melanoma, among others. While you may not see a burn, the damage and radiation is subtle, initially.

“While UVB rays cause sunburn, sun damage and some skin cancers, UVA rays are long-wave rays that deeply penetrate the skin,” says Weatherman.

Chronic sun exposure and burning from UV rays damages collagen and elastin, plus reduces hyaluronic acid and dermal vessels and causes free radical production, which compromises DNA. It also adversely affects the skin’s immunity. This triggers production of an enzyme (metalloproteinase) that degrades collagen and hinders the skin’s normal repair process.

Symptoms of UV Overexposure

Hydrating Sunscreen SPF 30_PevoniaOver time UV overexposure manifests as dehydration; dryness; uneven pigmentation; lines; wrinkles; sagging and a thick, rough, uneven texture. Additional signs of sun overexposure include freckles; raised, scaly lesions (actinic keratosis); nodular alterations; white to yellow (solar) comedones; discoloration around the mouth (actinic cheilitis—a precancerous lip condition); eyeball and eyelid issues (pinguecula); darkening and reddening of the skin (poikiloderma and actinic purpura) and itchy red bumps on the chest arms and neck, due to sun allergy or polymorphic light eruption.

Be Sun Aware

While 10 minutes of morning sun can increase Vitamin D and provide mood-boosting benefits, anytime you are outside unprotected, you are vulnerable to insidious UV rays. If you don’t protect yourself with adequate sunscreen, the cumulative effects of those short jaunts around the block with the dog, dropping off the kids at school or running a quick errand can add up to serious sun damage. UVA rays penetrate glass; so, think of your car as a mobile tanning booth and don’t leave home without applying sunscreen.

The minor inconvenience of prevention today is easier and more effective than trying to repair damage tomorrow. If you suspect you will be outdoors for over 10 minutes a day, take a moment to apply SPF 30 to prevent sun damage, visible signs of aging and cancer.

Take Extra Precaution

With age, it is particularly crucial to use sunscreen as our skin thins with time. Certain medications also increase sun sensitivity. Retinols or acids found in many acne and anti-aging products, as well as skincare procedures (peels, lasers), also make the skin more vulnerable to the sun’s damaging rays. Also, those with medical conditions like autoimmune disorders are more prone to burning and must take extra care of their skin.

Minimizing UV exposure is especially vital for those with dark spots. Once you have hyperpigmentation, your pigment switch is essentially permanently turned on and hyper-reactive. Even the smallest amount of UV exposure will trigger a new batch of dark spots; once this occurs, you must be hypervigilant.

Photo by Mink Mingle