Take a long, deep breath. Feel that? It’s MAY! We made it through the winter! Before summer hits us full-on, let’s talk a little bit about sun exposure.
There are some real dangers associated with too much time in the sun. Sunburn is the most common problem we face. It’s not just a minor annoyance, sun burn is actually the result of deep cellular damage to your skin cells. Sure, that burn might go away in a week or so, but over time, this cellular damage becomes noticeable in other ways. It can give the skin a “leathery” look. It’s more wrinkly, flaky, and discolored that healthy skin. It is also weakened and will bruise more easily, even though it appears to be thicker.
There are bigger worries than unattractive skin, however. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer found today, and many doctors believe that limiting over-exposure to the sun can help prevent it. Certain skin cancers, such as melanoma, can also spread to other areas of the body if not treated in time. This can be life-threatening. So please take sun exposure seriously if you have shrugged it off in the past.
Staying out of direct sunlight is the best way to protect yourself, but chances are, you aren’t completely nocturnal, so you’re going to have to go outdoors! When you do, these tips will help minimize the damage:
- Wear sunscreen! Always. Every day. Even in winter. Be sure to look at the SPF number on your sunscreen. The larger the SPF number, the greater the amount of protection. Everyone should use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. If you have had skin cancer or precancer, you should use a sunscreen with an even higher SPF. Many of the new sunscreens have SPFs of 30, 45, or even higher.
- Wear sunglasses that filter UV light. Many brands make stylish shades that also offer this protection. UV Rays can damage your eyes as well.
- Wear protective clothing to help shield your skin. Invest in a good hat! The top of your head is usually a tough spot to lather on the sunscreen, but your hair doesn’t cover your scalp the way a hat does.
- Avoid the mid-day sun. The UV rays that damage your skin are most powerful between 10am to 3pm.
Sunshine isn’t evil, though! In fact, if you don’t get enough sunshine in your life, you can potentially get what is known as SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. When exposed to less-than-usual sunlight (like during the winter months when sunlight is more scarce) your body produces more melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Your brain also begins producing lower levels of serotonin — the neurotransmitter that affects mood, appetite, sleep, and sexual desire. Simply put, SAD can make you feel sad. Catching a few rays can lift your spirits. Your body also absorbs vitamin D from the sun. The sun isn’t the only place you can get vitamin D, many foods are manufactured to be fortified with Vitamin D, but a little natural vitamin D outside is free and fun!
The sun makes you feel good. And then of course, there’s the way the sun makes you look. Indeed, a tan can make you look younger, healthier, and reduce the appearance of cellulite and age spots. But is vanity worth the risk of skin cancer? No, it certainly isn’t! Many women lay out in direct sunlight for hours to get that perfect tan, but even with sunscreen on, UV rays can penetrate your skin and cause damage. Tanning beds, even though they aren’t real sunlight, carry the same risks because they use the same dangerous rays.
There’s good news, though – there are SAFE tanning products that you can use to bronze your skin without actually using the sun or tanning beds!
Airbrush tanning uses an all natural compound called DHA. DHA isn’t a dye, paint, or stain. It’s actually a non-toxic, organic compound that creates a chemical reaction with the amino acids in the outermost layer of your skin. This reaction does not involve the underlying skin pigmentation, nor does it require exposure to ultraviolet light to initiate the change in color. DHA is approved by the FDA, and does not carry the serious risks that tanning outdoors or using a tanning bed does. It is a vegan, organic, and safe alternative. It’s also much cheaper and quicker than you might think. Don’t be shy, give it a try this summer!