Summertime goes hand-in-hand with sunshine, but the love of the sun is not a two-way street: too much sun exposure causes many of the wrinkles and age spots on our face and is the number-one cause of skin cancer. While it is tempting to want a tan when the summer wardrobe is mostly shorts, tank tops and bathing suits, the long-term damage is not worth it.
Most dermatologists agree that too much sun exposure causes many 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 break down, skin begins to sag, stretch and lose its ability to go back into place. Skin also bruises and tears more easily, taking longer to heal.
The problem with sun damage is that it is not immediately noticeable in our youth, but the effects will definitely show later in life. Additionally, nothing can completely undo the cumulative effects of sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself, so it is never too late to start protecting yourself from the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent sun-related skin problems:
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and then reapply every few hours
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours of 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
- Select cosmetics and contact lenses that offer UV protection
- Wear wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants
- Avoid tanning beds
Since 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before 18, it is important to take the proper precautions to protect children from sun damage. Parents can also model skin cancer prevention habits by following the above recommendations and encouraging their children to do so as well.