Protecting Your Skin
Protecting yourself from Sun Damage
The immediate danger of too much sun is sunburn. If you looked at sunburned skin under a strong microscope, you would see that the cells and blood vessels have been damaged. With repeated sun damage, the skin starts to look dry, wrinkled, discolored, and leathery. Although the skin appears to be thicker, it actually has been weakened and, as a result, it will bruise more easily.
However, the sun’s most serious threat is that it is the major cause of skin cancer, which is now the most common of all cancers. Doctors believe that most skin cancers can be avoided by preventing sun damage. Staying out of the sun is the best way to avoid sun damage, but most of us go outdoors regularly.
Precautions to take when you go outside
- Most importantly, always wear sunscreen. You should put it on every day. Make it a habit, such as brushing your teeth.
- Try to avoid sun in the middle of the day, from about 10 am to 3 pm. The ultraviolet rays, which cause sunburn, are strongest during this time.
- When you do go outdoors, especially for long periods in the middle of the day, wear protective clothing. Long sleeves and slacks, as well as a wide-brimmed hat, help protect your body against the sun’s harmful effects.
- Wear sunglasses that filter UV light.
Sunscreens are very effective when used properly. Follow these guidelines to give yourself the most protection:
- Apply the sunscreen at least 20 to 30 minutes before you go outdoors, whenever you will be exposed for 30 minutes or more.
- Reapply sunscreen every 3 hours while you are outdoors, even if the product is labeled "all-day." If you are getting a lot of sun or perspiring heavily, reapply sunscreen every hour or two.
- Cover all exposed areas, including your ears, lips, face and back of your hands.
- Don’t skimp; apply a generous layer. Smooth it on rather than rub it in.
- Women should apply sunscreens under makeup. If you wait to apply sunscreen until you hit the beach, you may already be perspiring, and moisture makes sunscreens less effective.
You may have been taught as a child that you need sunlight for your body to make vitamin D, because vitamin D is not found naturally in most foods. But today, many foods are fortified with vitamin D during the manufacturing process. Thus, sun exposure is not as important for the body’s vitamin D supply as it used to be. Of course, being outdoors makes most people feel good. And playing tennis is better for your health than watching television. But you can still protect yourself from the sun’s damaging effects while enjoying yourself outdoors.
For more information, visit Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health.