Protecting Your Skin from the Sun

Excessive exposure to sunlight damages the skin and is an important factor in the development of skin cancers and accelerating aging changes. Ultraviolet rays are especially damaging. The following suggestions are beneficial in protecting your skin from the sun.

Protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and wide-brimmed hats, should be worn to protect the skin.

Sun bathing should be avoided. Sports and recreation involving sun exposure should be done early in the morning or late in the evening to decrease sun exposure.

Ultraviolet Screening Sunglasses
Regular sunglasses decrease the intensity of sunlight. However, the damaging ultraviolet rays cannot be seen and may still penetrate regular sunglasses. UV light may be an important factor in the development of skin cancer of the eyelids, growths on the eyeball, and possibly cataract. There are special lenses that filter out the ultraviolet rays to protect your eyes and eyelids. There are many different brand names for these lenses (UV-400, Revo, Bolle, etc.) and you should ask if the sunglasses you are considering filter out the ultraviolet light. These UV protective lenses are available in any shade, tint or may even remain as clear glass. Ask your optician.

Sunscreens and suntan lotions are extremely important. They are rated on a sun protection factor. This is noted on the container as SPF. A sun protection factor of 15 (SPF-15) would mean that use of this agent would expose your skin to the same amount of UV light rays after 15 hours that you would have otherwise received after 1 hour without it. In Arizona, we recommend using a sun protection factor of at least 15. There are sunscreens with SPF over 30. Clinique and Estee Lauder are two products with high sun protective factor ratings. A #15 sunscreen lip balm is available that can be easily applied to the lips as well as the lower eyelids to offer protection in these vulnerable areas. Remember that sunscreens should be reapplied frequently to maintain their protective effect.

Tanning Booths
The AMA Council on Scientific Affairs has reported the widespread use of fluorescent sunlamps, and tanning booths are potentially dangerous and constitutes a health hazard. The ultraviolet light used (UV-A) penetrates deep into skin and may cause premature aging by modifying fibers that maintain the skins normal resiliency. In addition, both short and long-term exposure to high intensity UV-A radiation may cause disturbances in the immune system, skin cancer, cataracts, or possible retinal damage. The best protection according to the report is to avoid cosmetic tanning altogether including tanning with natural sunlight.

If you have any suspicious skin lumps or sores that do not heal, the area should be evaluated by a physician interested in skin cancer.