We all learn in school that sun exposure is good for the body as it helps to produce Vitamin D. However, that’s not all that sun exposure does. Increased exposure – be it short term or long term – leads to dangerous effects on the skin. UV radiation is made up of UVA and UVB rays which are able to penetrate the skin and cause permanent damage to the cells below. UVA penetrates deeply into the skin (the dermis) causing genetic damage to cells, photo-ageing (wrinkling, blotchiness etc). UVB penetrates into the epidermis (top layer of the skin) causing damage to the cells. UVB is responsible for sunburn – a significant risk factor for skin cancer, especially melanoma.
With every passing year, your skin continues to age and this aging process is further accelerated by the damage done from the UV rays of the sun. Increased exposure to the skin on short term basis like when you are out on a trip can cause suntan, sunburn and also increase freckles or other skin discolorations. Long term cumulative exposure to sun over several years leads to wrinkles due to loss of elastic tissue and also causes premature aging of skin. Exposure to UV radiation is the main factor that causes skin cells to become cancer cells. Almost all skin cancers (approximately 99% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 95% of melanoma) are caused by too much UV radiation from the sun or other sources such as solaria (solariums, sunbeds, and sun lamps). The sun rays are worst between 10 am to 2 pm when they have the potential for causing maximum damage. The following tips can prove useful to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun.
1) Use Sunscreen –
It is imperative to use sunscreen religiously. Sunscreen should be applied for 15-20 mins before stepping out in the sun. It should be applied on all the exposed parts of your body. Also, repeated application is important as the sunscreen offers protection only for 2-3 hours at a time. Ideally, shot glass full for your body and a full teaspoon just on your face is needed for its optimum efficacy. There are numerous brands in the market and not all products suit everyone. If you have a sunscreen that you are comfortable with, that’s good; or else seek professional help from a dermatologist who can examine your skin , assess your sun exposure and recommend a sunscreen that works best for you with due consideration to your daily activities.
2) Drink lots of water –
Excessive sweating due to the summer heat causes water loss from the skin cells. This dehydration has to be avoided with good intake of water to preserve the glow of your skin. You should consume 2-3 liters of water daily to maintain rehydration.
4) Protect your lips-
You will notice that your lips can become dry very often in summer just like the winters. So make sure that you not only keep your skin moisturized but also apply a nourishing SPF enhanced lip balm on your lips regularly to keep them moisturized.
5) Go for minimal make-up-
During summers less make-up is best. Under the intolerant sun, natural looks are best. If you intend to use foundation then also apply face powder with SPF to avoid patchy skin. To protect your lips always use a gloss or a lip balm with an SPF of 15 to make your lips fresher. Eye make is something which should be very much avoided in summers.
6) Wear a hat or cap while traveling –
Although sunscreen offers protection it is not 100% . By wearing protective clothing you can avoid direct impact of the rays on your face. However, the use of these is not an alternative to sunscreen but its an add-on to further boost your protection.
7) Wear sunglasses –
Apart from the skin, excessive sun exposure can also cause damage to the retina. Hence, wearing goggles will be advisable to protect the eyes as well. Also, it is always nice to have an excuse to look cool and savvy.
– Dr Sujit Shanshanwal, M.B.B.S., M.D.