Friday, January 13, 2012

How to Reduce Skin Damage From Sun?

If you've ever had a suntan or sunburn, you've seen some of the sun's most immediate effects on the skin. Although tanned skin is in fashion, and you may brush off a sunburn as something that can be remedied with some aloe vera, you may not realize that such sun damage accumulates over time and can turn into serious problems, according to the Mayo Clinic. Learning how the sun causes skin damage is the first step in taking the proper safety precautions when you go outdoors.
Negative Effects of Sun
The sun can cause drastic health effects. Tanning equates to skin injury because a tan forms when the skin uses the coloring substance melanin to protect itself from ultraviolet rays. Sunburn, another effect of overexposure to the sun, can worsen for as long as 24 hours and cause pain, swelling and blistering. Other effects of the sun include aging (e.g. age spots and scaly growths), wrinkling, cataracts, allergic reactions that include blisters and hives, a damaged immune system and skin cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 90 percent of skin cancers occur on skin that has been exposed to the sun.
The Culprit
The sun's light contains invisible ultraviolet (UV) rays that are responsible for skin damage. UVA rays, which contribute to skin aging, wrinkling and skin cancer, compose the majority of rays that reach the skin, says the Nemours Foundation. UVB rays, which are mostly absorbed by the ozone layer, are linked to sunburns, cataracts and damage to the immune system. According to the Nemours Foundation, the dangerous skin cancer melanoma is also thought to be related to UVB sunburns that occur prior to age 20.
UV Index
The UV Index, developed by the Environmental Protection agency and the National Weather Service, forecasts how much UV radiation is expected to hit the earth's surface in a given geographic area at a given time. The index orders UV exposure on a scale from 1 to 11+, with low numbers equating to low exposure and higher numbers meaning a higher risk of overexposure. On an 11+ day, it's crucial to take extra measures to protect skin.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
Some factors cause a person to be at greater risk of developing skin cancer. People with fair skin, red hair, blond hair and light-colored eyes are at a higher risk than people with darker skin, hair and eyes, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. Also, people who sunburn easily and those who have many birthmarks, freckles and moles are at higher risk. Others at risk are those who have spent a lot of time outside, those who have had a serious sunburn, those who tan by sunlamp or sun and those who have had skin cancer or relatives with skin cancer.
Sun Protection
The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends wearing protective clothing and hats, wearing sunglasses with a 99 percent UVA block rating, avoiding the sun between the strong sunlight hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and avoiding getting a tan from the sun or from a tanning bed. It also recommends checking your skin monthly for signs of skin cancer and mentioning unusual looking skin to your doctor. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends supplementing your other protective actions by wearing a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on any exposed skin. Reapply every two hours and after skin has been exposed to sweat or other water.

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