To help ensure that everyone enjoys summer safely, Dr. Anthony James Petty, medical program chair at Brown Mackie College in Miami, shares helpful information on protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful effects.
“Overexposure to the sun causes premature aging,” says Petty. “Ultraviolet light affects the outer skin layers, or epidermis, and is the primary agent responsible for sunburn. Long-term effects of the sun also include a higher risk of developing skin cancer.”
The 2009 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s SunWise Program report, “Health Effects of Overexposure to the Sun,” states, “The incidence of skin cancer in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and one American dies every hour from this devastating disease.”
Petty describes the process of burning and its effects on the skin. “Everyone has melanocytes, or pigment-producing cells, in the skin. As exposure to UV light begins to burn the skin, melanocytes send a color-producing pigment called melanin to the surface for protection. This causes the tan color, but each time it happens, it dries the skin and robs the melanocytes of their ability to respond.”
Petty recommends using sunscreen with SPF 15 protection or greater. “SPF 15 filters 92 percent of UV rays. Without protection, a fair-skinned person would begin to burn in just 10 minutes. Applying SPF 15 sunscreen lets that same person stay in the sun 15 times longer before burning, or 150 minutes.”
Petty says it’s important to reapply sunscreen every two hours; more often if you’re swimming. Chlorine from pools and salt from the ocean break down sunscreen formulas and weaken their effectiveness. Another consideration is the time of day you spend in the sun. UV rays are strongest between noon and 3 p.m.
Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going out into the sun. “The skin needs time to absorb the lotion,” says Petty. “The lotion is absorbed, but the chemicals in the sunscreen are rejected and form the protective layer.” While it is recommended to re-apply lotion periodically, it is equally recommended not to overuse sunscreen. “Overuse of sunscreen can enable toxins to enter the bloodstream. This is dangerous and can lead to liver damage.”
According to Petty, if you do get sunburned, “First make sure you cover up. Don’t burn on top of burn. It can be dangerous. Second-degree burns cause painful blisters on the skin. Popping the blisters raises the chances of infection. If blistering appears, see a doctor.”
Advice for sunburn includes a cool shower, not hot, or an oatmeal bath. “A cool compress often helps,” says Petty. “Aloe is a natural emollient that is commonly used to keep skin moist.” Anyone suffering from sunburn should drink plenty of water. A headache that accompanies sunburn signals dehydration. “Nothing functions well without hydration. Drink water before you feel thirsty,” Petty says. “Colas and iced tea should be avoided, as caffeine will actually cause further dehydration. Sports drinks, however, will replenish electrolytes and hydrate faster.”
– Courtesy of ARAcontent