Sun Damage: How And Why To Protect Your Skin

Happy summer!  Time to dig in the yard, mow the grass, play in the swimming pool, throw the football and Frisbee in the park, and participate in all sorts of other outdoor activities.

Time to also start thinking about how to protect your skin from sun damage this summer!

Your skin is your largest organ.  It keeps “you” in and “everything else” out.  It conserves water, fights germs, helps you keep track of the world around you, keeps you warm, cools you down, gets rid of toxins and does many other functions we don’t even understand.  It replaces itself every 35 days.

What an amazing organ our skin is!  It is particularly vulnerable to damage from the strong ultraviolet rays of the sun we receive in the summer.  Here are two reasons and three ways to protect your skin.

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer that both genders experience.  Every year well over 3 million people are treated for skin cancer.  There are more cases of skin cancer than cases of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined!

Skin cancer kills.  Over 10,000 people die every year from melanoma skin cancer.  If you have over 5 sunburns in your life it doubles your risk of malignant melanoma.

Skin cancer is one of the only cancers we know how to prevent.  It’s estimated that over 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancer, and 85% of malignant melanoma, are caused by UV radiation from the sun.

Skin Aging

Do you want to have fresh, young-looking skin?  Protect it from sun damage!  It’s estimated that 90% of skin aging is due to damage from UV exposure from the sun.

Sun damage is also cumulative.  Even if you were a “sun worshipper” when you were younger, you can slow down the progression of skin aging by starting now to protect your skin.  After all, your skin replaces itself every 35 days, so if you take good care of it, its appearance and youthfulness can improve.

So how do we protect our skin from sun damage?  There are 3 main ways.

Avoid Tanning Beds

The World Health Organization classifies UV tanning devices (tanning beds and tanning booths) as Class 1 carcinogens, the same class as plutonium and cigarettes.  In fact, more people develop skin cancer because of tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.  Yikes!!

Indoor tanning significantly increases the risk of early-onset skin cancer.  Basal cell carcinoma is 69% more likely to develop before age 40 if a person uses an tanning bed or booth EVEN ONCE.  It’s estimated that 43% of basal cell carcinoma before age 40 in women could be prevented if women did not use tanning beds or booths.

Tanning beds cause skin cancer.  Don’t do it.  Don’t let your family (especially your teenagers) do it.

Stay Out Of The Sun During Peak Hours

The hours between 10 AM and 3 PM have the most intense and direct UV radiation delivery.  If possible, stay in the shade during those hours.

Another part of avoiding sun exposure is to wear light-colored, loose-fitting cotton clothes (preferably with long sleeves and long pants) and a broad-brimmed hat.

Sunscreen

People who use sunscreen daily with SPF 15 or higher had 24% less skin aging than those who did not use sunscreen daily.  The most important parts to apply sunscreen to are ALL the sun exposed areas!  That’s face, neck (all the way around), chest, back, arms, hands, legs and tops of the feet.  Don’t forget your ears too, a lot of nonmelanoma skin cancers in particular are found on the tops and the backs of the ears.

There’s a lot of controversy right now about chemical sunscreens like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.  Some groups are claiming they are “endocrine disruptors” and dangerous to young children.  As I posted on my Facebook page, those claims have been pretty well debunked.  Your children get exposed to a lot more exogenous hormones from drinking dairy milk (even organic) than from a lifetime’s use of chemical sunscreen.

The sunscreen my family and I use is Shaklee’s Enfuselle SPF 30 For Body.  It is a patented unique formula which is paraben-free, hypoallergenic and tested by dermatologists.  Shaklee products are NEVER tested on animals!

That reminds me!  I need to order some more and stock up!  LOL!

A Word About Vitamin D

There has been a lot of hype about vitamin D deficiency, especially in these more northern latitudes where we don’t get enough sun in the winter to make vitamin D.  Should we be voluntarily exposing our skin to sunlight in order to make vitamin D?

I wrote about this a few years ago, and the general advice is to let your skin get 10-15 minutes direct sun on the bare torso (where the most vitamin D is produced) and then apply sunscreen for any more time in the sun.  Also, if you are vitamin D deficient to begin with, you’re more likely to burn, so supplementing with vitamin D can help protect your skin.

As you plan your summer fun, make sure to plan to protect your skin from sun damage leading to burns, premature aging, and increased cancer risk.  Limit your exposure, wear protective clothing, use your sunscreen and take your vitamin D!

QUESTION: Do you tend to burn easily?  Do you wear sunscreen regularly?

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