What comes to mind when you hear the words “sun damage”? Do you think of a sunburn brought on by a long day on a beautiful beach? While sunburns are often serious sources of sun damage, it’s important to remember that unpleasant souvenirs from a vacation aren’t the only time the sun can strike and damage your skin.
As we enter the spring and summer seasons and prepare to spend more time outside, this fact needs to be considered by everyone in western Pennsylvania. Because sun damage can occur any time of the year - even on cloudy days - we can’t rely on the cloud coverage to protect our skin. It’s up to you to keep your skin healthy and safe from damage!
Sun Damage: The Basics
The term “sun damage” describes any of the effects caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. Exposure to ultraviolet rays is cumulative, and it contributes to a variety of issues. For example, UV ray exposure causes skin to age more quickly - so avoiding overexposure can minimize wrinkles, sun spots, freckles and similar blemishes.
The true harm from sun damage, however, comes in the way it can impact your health. Discoloration of the skin and even benign tumors are also common complaints in sufferers. And UV exposure increases your risk for developing serious health problems, too.
Sun Damage: The Health Risks
There are two major health risks associated with sun damage:
- Exposure to sunlight increases our risk of developing diseases like cataract and eye cancers. Even if you don’t develop one of these serious illnesses, sun damage could lead to various growths around or on the eye - which could affect your vision without treatment.
- Skin cancer is the most well known effect of UV exposure and sun damage. It’s also the most common type of cancer in the U.S. - with more cases developing each year. Although there are certain risk factors associated with skin cancer, the reality is that anyone can develop the disease. Skin cancer is especially likely to affect those with a history of sunburns or of tanning, since both are a form of sun damage.
As you can see, while some issues related to sun exposure and damage are minimal, others are much more serious. Because of this, experts agree that taking action to prevent skin damage is a universal “must” for everyone.
Sun Damage: Prevention
The most important thing to remember about skin health, is that any damage to your skin is cumulative. This means that even spending a few minutes in the sun every day can add up to a large amount of sun damage - and an increased risk of skin health issues.
Fortunately, preventing this damage is a relatively easy task - and protecting your skin can give it time to work on naturally repairing itself to a small degree. To help reduce your UV ray exposure and protect your skin this season, health professionals recommend the following:
- Minimize your time spent in the sun. The easiest way to avoid sun damage is to avoid direct sun exposure altogether. This is especially important during peak UV radiation hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.).
- Use sunscreen. Since it’s not possible to live indoors all of our lives, using sunscreen is a critical strategy for protecting your skin. You should use sunscreen any time you plan on spending time outdoors this season. Don't think that you can just pass on the sunscreen if it's cloudy: the sun's rays can pass through haze and thin cloud. Be sure to apply your sunscreen correctly, too - otherwise, it won’t protect your skin effectively!
- Wear clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses that offer UV protection. In addition to using sunscreen, you should dress for successful prevention and sun protection every day. This includes wearing sunglasses, donning a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck, and even looking for makeup with SPF. Even if you’re just going to the office, these items will help to protect your skin from the cumulative damage you might otherwise pick up during your day-to-day routine.
Tips like these are vital pieces in a big puzzle when it comes to protecting your skin from sun damage. But don’t forget, good skin care doesn’t end with sun damage prevention. Diet, exercise, and your lifestyle can all impact the general health of your skin. So if you think that your skin health could be given a boost this season, feel free to make an appointment with one of Genesis Medical’s practices and staff. Not only will we be able to address your individual concerns, but we’ll also be able to review your medical history and help you evaluate your risk of developing a health issue related to skin damage. Working with our team to address your needs will ensure that your health is more than skin deep this season!