Learn ways to protect, nurture and reverse sun damage.
Everyone knows prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation leads to increased risk of skin cancer, right? What most don’t realize is that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and that one death occurs every hour from it. Those are alarming statistics!
Malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is now one of the most common cancers among people ages 15 to 29 years, and though it constitutes only 3 percent of all skin cancers, it causes 75 percent of cancer deaths. This should be enough to hold our attention.
Too much ultraviolet radiation exposure can cause:
• Cataracts and macular degeneration, which causes blindness.
• Loss of elastin, which causes the skin to sag, stretch and lose its ability to snap back. A breakdown of elastin also makes the skin more susceptible to bruising and tearing and increases healing time with wounds.
• Aging or brown spots, which are precursors to skin cancers and may begin to appear as early as in your 20s.
• Fine wrinkles and lines, red blood vessels called telangiectasia and a general unhealthy look to the skin.
It isn’t known exactly which components of ultraviolet have the most cancer-causing effects because most UVA and UVC rays don’t reach the earth’s surface. Scientists are concerned, however, that the earth’s atmosphere is changing. With those variations may come an increase in the amount of UVA and UVC rays reaching the earth’s surface and an increase in the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
The good news is that with proper care and protection, you can have healthy, younger-looking skin. It all begins with education and proper care.
What to Avoid and Follow
• Sunburns during childhood. Anyone over 6 months of age should wear sunscreen daily. Infants should be shaded from the sun as their skin is too sensitive to the chemicals in sunscreen.
• Tanning beds. People who use tanning beds are 74 percent more likely to develop malignant melanoma than those who have never used them. Many states and cities have enacted restrictions or bans on tanning beds due to this risk, especially for use by children.
• Balance sun exposure. Sunlight has three types of ultraviolet radiation known as UVA , UVB and UVC. UVB has the most known negative effects. However, it also has the positive effect of promoting vitamin D formation in the body, and achieving an acceptable balance of ultraviolet exposure is important. We need to have sun exposure for vitamin D metabolism. Vitamin D is essential for proper calcium absorption, which leads to stronger, healthier bones as well as numerous other essential metabolic functions. Sunlight exposure also leads to a normal circadian rhythm due to proper melatonin synthesis as well as a reduced risk of seasonal affective disorder. In short, the sun is a necessary part of our lives.
Protect Your Skin
Wear your sunscreen daily, and remember there are a lot of misconceptions about its use and effectiveness. Sunscreens should protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. Although UVB is the primary culprit behind sunburn, UVA increases the cancer-causing effects of UVB and promotes premature aging in the skin. Sunscreens vary in their effectiveness with blocking both types of ultraviolet radiation, so it’s important to understand what’s written on the product’s label.
SPF is short for “sun protection factor,” which is the ability of the sunscreen to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. If unprotected skin turns red in around 15 minutes, then SPF 20 will theoretically take 20 times longer to harm the skin. Another way to look at it is that SPF 15 will block 93 percent of UVB, SPF 30 will block 97 percent and SPF 50 will block 98 percent. This might seem like small differences, but if you are sun sensitive or genetically prone to skin cancers, this will make a huge difference over time. No sunscreen is 100 percent effective at stopping ultraviolet exposure. On top of that, no sunscreen is effective after two hours, and reddening of the skin is only indicative of UVB exposure. You may have UVA exposure without
Sunscreen should be applied in the morning and reapplied throughout the day. Mineral sunscreens such as titanium and zinc do not degrade like chemicals but can rub off while swimming or exercising. You should apply one ounce, about a shot glass, of sunscreen and reapply every two hours. Most people use about a quarter of this and rarely reapply.
Most of us had little knowledge of the harmful effects of tanning when we were younger and are now paying for those sins. All of these cosmetically unappealing issues begin early in life and worsen with time. Even if you are a faithful sunscreen user now, you must remember that what is happening today had its beginnings many decades ago. So in addition to protecting yourself today, it is important to remove and repair damage that has already occurred.
Step 1. Good skin care: Medical-grade products that have passed the rigors of scientific studies demonstrate a reduction in the rate of skin cancers. Also, they have benefits regarding anti-aging. If your skin is healthy, then it will be more beautiful. The end result is that you will not have to cover up imperfections with makeup. The basic products everyone should have are growth factors, retinols, moisturizer and sunscreen. Growth factors improve the texture and appearance of the skin by enhancing the growth of collagen. They are an absolute necessity, in my opinion, for anti-aging. Retinols also improve the youthfulness of the skin by increasing skin cell turnover. Additionally, moisturizers hydrate the skin to keep it healthy, and sunscreen will protect it from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.
Step 2. Reverse damage: Consider procedures and machines to reverse sun-damaged skin. Some of the most beneficial procedures are chemical peels, which come in varying strengths and can be customized to fit your needs. Peels will lighten the brown spots, smooth the skin and remove the dead skin cells, which leads to more youthful and healthier skin. Lasers are another option and should be used only by highly trained personnel and supervised by a physician. They offer a safe and effective way to combat damage done by sun exposure and tanning beds and can remove brown spots, smooth wrinkles, treat redness of the skin and remove unsightly blood vessels.
Although the sun really isn’t our enemy, we need to learn to protect ourselves from the long-term effects of overexposure. Taking the time to educate yourself on what is available will assist you in keeping your skin healthy, younger looking and cancer free.