Well, here we are again in another summer in the sun, ready to get more wrinkles, freckles and, worse, skin cancer. Will we ever recognize the truth that exposure to the sun over time causes permanent damage to our skin? And, if you believe the warnings about global warming, it's only going to get worse because, as the ozone layer above the earth continues to dissipate, the ultraviolet rays of the sun will become stronger and stronger.
Years ago the belief was that it was actually healthy to lie in the sun, soaking up the rays. We now know how wrong this was, yet so many of us still don't pay attention to it; we want that supposedly fashionable tanned skin. But the sun's ultraviolet rays, which are invisible and penetrating, which cause us to tan, also cause the skin to burn, shrivel up (wrinkle) and, of course, melanoma (cancer).
I was very lucky when I was young the hot sun on my skin actually "hurt." I couldn't take it, so I protected it with hats and long sleeves when out in the heat of the day. I have never suffered sunburn and have never "baked" in the sun.
This year, it is estimated that about one-third of adults in the U.S. will suffer sunburn at least once. UV rays are more intense in the summer, at high altitudes and closer to the equator. But the sun's harmful effects are also increased by wind and reflections from water, sand, and snow.
The sun is the most powerful aging factor of skin I know of, causing more wrinkles than smoking or anything else. And it is cumulative. The more exposure to the sun you have had over the years, the more build up of permanent, deep wrinkles there will be. The more "burns" you have had the faster you're skin ages and the more chances to develop skin cancer.
No matter how much exposure to the sun you have suffered, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself. Here's how:
1. Most important: Use a sun block or sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Use it liberally and reapply frequently.
2. Wear a wide brimmed hat that shades the back of the neck too.
3. Wear protective clothing.
4. Wear good quality, certified UV protective sunglasses. The sun can affect the eyes. It can cause cataracts and hasten macular degeneration.
5. If possible, schedule outdoor activities before 11 AM or after 3 PM when ultraviolet rays are less intense. (Actually, it would be even better before 10 AM and 4 PM)
6. Be especially careful at this time of year, summer, when UV exposure is as much as 100 times greater than in winter. The ozone layer above North America is thickest, thus most protective, in late winter and thinnest in late summer/early fall. However, outdoor activities in winter are not immune, since snow reflects UV radiation.
7. Be careful at higher elevations. For every 1000-foot increase in elevation, UV exposure increases an average of 7%.
8. Avoid tanning beds. A scientific study recently determined that people who use tanning devices were 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to develop common kinds of skin cancer than people who did not use them. The ultraviolet radiation given off tanning beds causes aging and skin cancer, just like the sun.
There are no safe tans gained from UV rays; they are actually a sign of skin damage. You are going to have a serious wakeup call one day if you think that dark tan you got at the beach or on the tanning bed "today" did not take its toll. It did! The cells under the skin are affected even if it doesn't show on the surface at the moment. This is the beginning of skin self destruction which cannot be "undone." But you can stop now and prevent more damage.
If you want to appear tanned, use a good quality indoor sunless tan lotion.
Please be sure to protect children. Their skin is young and tender, and the sun's rays can cause serious problems more quickly. A single serious sunburn in a young child can be enough to cause damage for a lifetime.
Remember, there are many types of beauty. You don't need to have a tan to be beautiful!!
Oleda Baker, expert in Health, Beauty, and Anti-Aging for 30 years, is CEO of Oleda and Company, Inc (www.oleda.com). Author of 9 health and beauty books.
Photo. Sura Nualpradid