A little bit of sun exposure is good for you – it’s how your body gets vitamin D which is essential for absorbing calcium to make your bones stronger. However, if you get more than a little exposure to the sunshine you will be putting yourself at risk for skin damage, eye damage, and skin cancer. This is why it is so important to protect your health by shielding yourself from the sun when you go outside.
UV and Skin Damage
Sun exposure causes a lot of changes to the skin, damaging the fibers called elastin and causing the skin to stretch, sag and lose its ability to go back into place. Sun exposure can also cause a yellow discoloration of the skin, freckles, wrinkles, tumors and the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin. This causes people who have spent a lot of time in the sun to look much older than they really are.
Take a look at this fascinating photo of a truck driver. He drove a truck for 28 years and received much more sun damage on the left side of his face, as that was the side which was hit by direct sunlight coming through his truck window. The difference between the sun-damaged side of his face and the other side, which was in the shadow, is shocking. This man is a living example of why it is important to protect your skin from the sun.
Sun Damage and the Increased Risk of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. The sun is the major cause of skin cancer, which has now become the most common of all cancers. Many doctors believe that most skin cancers can be effectively avoided by preventing sun damage.
There are many different types of skin cancer, but melanoma is the most dangerous. It has the risk of spreading to other parts of the body, and if it is not caught early, it can be deadly. It begins in the cells deep within the epidermis, known as the melanocytes, which produce the pigment of your skin. When these skin cells cluster together, this is what forms moles.
If you notice that you have a mole that has changed color, size or shape then you should get it checked out by a physician. If it is caught early, there is a chance it could be cured, but if it is left too long cancer can reach the blood vessels and affect your major organs which can be potentially fatal.
Protecting Yourself from the Sun
So, what is the best way to protect your skin and minimize your risk of sun damage? First of all, it is important to get into the habit of wearing sunscreen whenever you are spending time out in the sun. Make sure that your sunscreen is at least SPF 30 and that you are reapplying it if you are swimming or sweating a lot. Also, don’t forget to wear sunscreen when you are outside even on overcast days – the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through clouds.
It is also wise to wear protective clothing, such as lightweight long sleeves and pants and a hat. A good sun hat should have a wide brim so that it will keep both your face and your neck in shadow. You might also want to look for a hat with a strap, so that it will stay on your head even if you are doing something active like horseback riding, going on safari or riding in a boat. For example, this Lassie Coco Wide Brim Straw Sun Hat is perfect, as it has a wide floppy brim and a stretchable sweatband that will make it fit comfortable on your head.
You should also avoid spending time in direct sunlight during the middle of the afternoon, from around 10 am until 3 pm. This is when the UV rays are strongest, and you are at the highest risk of sunburn. Also, get yourself a pair of high-quality sunglasses which can protect your eyes from damage by UV light.