Sizzling sun rays and scorching sand bring back fond memories of summer beach days. Such sunny days can be joyous, relaxing and, at times, just what the doctor ordered. However, staying in the sun too long has its consequences. Ultraviolet radiation is a natural part of our lives as our big, blue planet is so close to the sun. Humans have adapted well in the realm of skin protection because of this proximity, but it is not a perfect system.
UV light is comprised of harmful waves: UVA and UVB rays. Daily exposure can damage skin and cause numerous health concerns. Dermatologists may refer to this damage as photoaging, photodamage, solar damage or sun damage. In fact, it’s estimated the effects of the sun cause 90% of skin aging. That’s not to say absorbing the sun’s warmth is without benefit. Vitamin D is an important part of staying healthy. Our bodies can manufacture vitamin D through a process that starts with exposure to UVB rays.
Reports suggest 23% of the sun damage we experience during our lifetime occurs by age 18. Signs of this damage could start to show in the teens and early twenties. Symptoms may include wrinkling, changes in pigmentation, freckles, loss of skin tone, broken capillaries and beyond.
As we age and build our exposure levels, skin cancers may form. There are three major types of skin cancer: melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Melanoma is the deadliest. It metastasizes more readily and the most important risk factor in developing it is sun exposure. The risk factors for the other two are more closely related to skin type and the amount of UV radiation exposure over a person’s lifetime.
What can you do to protect yourself? Start by limiting sun exposure and guarding against harmful rays with protective products. Even if you already see signs of damaged skin, it’s important to take the steps in preventing future photodamage.
Using broad-spectrum sunscreen is essential because it can shield from UVA and UVB rays. Choose one that is water-resistant, with an SPF of 15 or greater. Dermatologists also advise to stop intentionally sunbathing. A suntan — even if you feel it’s a healthy glow — is still considered skin damage. Opt for sunless tanners. There is a wide market of organic and natural spray tan products from which to choose.
For more tips on preventing photoaging and to see a breakdown on how the sun damages skin, please see the accompanying resource.
Author bio: Bridget Bergin is the owner of Brazil Bronze NYC. Bergin owns three spray tan salons and manufactures the solution that she sells worldwide. She has 11 years of experience in the industry and focuses on providing sunless tans that are natural-looking and beneficial for the skin.