Getting outside and enjoying some sun is a part of taking care of your overall health as it is an easy way to get Vitamin D, an essential vitamin for your immune system and bone health. Although highly recommended, too much sun exposure can be damaging to your skin and could put you at risk for certain diseases such as skin cancer. Protecting against the sun before you go outside is essential, and does wonders in preserving a youthful look as you age.
How the Sun Affects Your Skin
The sun emits solar radiation that is visible at the Earth’s surface, with some areas getting as much as 4,000 hours of sunlight per year. Sunlight is broken down into three major components: visible light, UV light, and infrared radiation. UV light, or UV rays are largely responsible for most skin cancers, and are an invisible kind of radiation that can damage skin cells. Protecting your skin from UV rays is crucial to reducing risk for skin cancers, and you should take special care in protection from UV Rays especially between 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. when UV rays tend to be strongest.
UVA vs. UVB
There are two types of UV rays – UVA and UVB – both of which can harm your skin. UVA rays penetrate deep into the layers of the skin and leads to premature signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles. UVB rays are the primary cause of sunburn, because they penetrate the outer layer of skin and cause damage to skin cells. Too much exposure from either UVA or UVB rays can play a part in causing skin cancer. It is important to protect your skin year-round, because the amount of UVA stays relatively constant throughout the year, and also exceeds the amount of UVB rays in both summer and winter for regions that experience variable sunlight. Even on a cloudy day, 80% of the sun’s UVA rays may pass through clouds.
How to Protect Your Skin from the Sun
Even on cloudy days, when it may seem that the skin is protected from the sun, UV rays can still penetrate through cloud cover and make contact with skin cells. Thus, skin protection is important at all times throughout the year and even more so during more warm and sunny months. There are several methods you can use to protect from the sun, while still enjoying its many health benefits.
You can reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer by staying the shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside – even when you’re in the shade.
When possible, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts, which can provide protection from UV rays. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing is certified under international standards as offering UV protection.
For the most protection, wear a hat that has a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
If you war a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen, or staying in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunglasses that both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Put on broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher before you go outside. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options.
Sunscreen is not recommended for babies who are 6 months old or younger. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends keeping infants out of the sun during midday and using protective clothing if they have to be in the sun.
Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF), which is a number that rates how well they block UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF of 15 or higher.
Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Part of getting older is the increasing risks for health conditions such as osteoporosis, however with proper monitoring and control over your risk factors you can help to prevent this and a number of diseases. It is never too late or too early to consider your risks for developing osteoporosis, and if you’re worried or curious about your bone health status it is always best practice to get your doctor involved in the conversation. By being proactive in preventing osteoporosis you can help reduce your risks for this and many other diseases associated with aging. Whether you are at high risk or low risk for osteoporosis, taking the time to care for your bone health can make a huge impact in your overall health outcomes. So, if you haven’t already taken account of your bones within your health journey be sure to follow these guidelines and talk to your doctor to create a health plan that works for you.