Read this blog and learn why the sun is our worst enemy and how to get smart about sunbathing and tanning!
The beautiful, mild weather in northern California is always luring us outside. Outdoor activities are easy to find year ’round. Beaches, festivals, sporting events, flea markets – all found under the sun somewhere. The favorite pastime of many Californians: sunbathing and tanning.
Being outside “soaking up some rays” seems like a safe and fun method of recharging our batteries. There is proof that being out in the sun is actually one of the unhealthiest things you can do. Even on a cloudy day, and especially if you are a ‘person of color.’ Our skin changes color (tanning) because the UV radiation in sunlight is deadly to skin cells. TANNED SKIN IS DAMAGED SKIN.
When skin cells die, they release carcinogens into your bloodstream. As the build-up of carcinogens becomes too much for your body to handle, the result is cancer SOMEWHERE. It can take years for the build-up to reach critical mass. Meanwhile, you will see changes occurring over time: more wrinkles, dryness that won’t go away, “age spots.” You will look older. Some doctors believe it’s not a matter of if but when years of over-exposure to the sun will show itself in your skin. There are ways your skin sends warning signs of serious problems. It’s important to learn about those signs, and it is important to cut our addiction to sun radiation.
The World Health Organization estimates that too much sun kills as many as 60,000 people every year worldwide. The main culprit: malignant skin cancer.
In 2014, the Surgeon General of the United States pointed out a big jump in the number of melanoma cases. A special report called on local governments to do more about helping people to cover up, especially kids.
Darker skin = skin cancer on the rise
Rates of skin cancer are going sky-high among people of brown-skinned races. Most brown-skinned people don’t understand the threat. Others believe their skin color gives them immunity. Culture and upbringing play a role as well. Fair-skinned people are often better coached about the dangers of the sun and are more careful about avoiding the sun than people of color. Brown-skinned people often have backgrounds or upbringings that emphasize outdoor work (i.e.: construction, fishing or farm jobs) and outdoor recreation (i.e.: sports, “…go outside and play…”). People of color often become “people of the sun” and get little-to-no exposure to cautionary messages about proper sun behavior. We weren’t taught – and we aren’t teaching our kids! FACT: kids shown pictures of skin damage actually worked harder at avoiding sun exposure – see the link below.
Darker skin = you may not know you have skin cancer
Melanoma often shows up different in people of color. This means the disease often goes undetected and untreated until it reaches the later stages. Thus, the rate of brown-skinned fatalities from skin cancer is higher. In fact, Hispanics were the top minorities to develop skin cancer between 1999 and 2010.
Melanoma WILL spread cancer cells to other areas of your body – it’s what killed Bob Marley.
Looking for vitamin D – take your One-A-Day instead!
The “benefits” of sunbathing and tanning are often overstated (especially by the people trying to sell you tanning booth time!). There are way safer means of getting vitamin D than sun exposure. And the trade-off of getting your vitamins from the sun? “Changed skin color” means sunbathing and tanning has killed lots of your skin cells. Dead skin cells speed up free radical damage (aging) and alter your DNA. Carcinogens can be created by altered DNA. As dead skin cells build up, they degrade the amount of collagen in your skin. Collagen is the protein that gives your skin its soft, elastic nature.
Beauty is skin deep
The skin lotion people want you to believe that you can just slap on some moisturizer after sunbathing and tanning and you’re good to go. The truth is: what you apply to your skin will never be enough to replenish your skin cells after years of baking them in the sun. And, your skin can’t absorb collagen so don’t believe the hype! Same with the SPF factor in make-up. Face-paint does little to protect you from sun damage.
About that sunscreen…
Some people think unlimited sunbathing and tanning is okay as long as they have sprayed on a little sunscreen before going outdoors. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, it is important to have applied some sort of protection. AVOIDING the sun is the MOST important thing you can do. Covering up, finding shade and wearing wide hats are all vital parts of your defense against the sun. Apply your protection product more than once – thirty minutes before you go outside, and at least every two to four hours after. If you are in the water apply more often even if the label says “water-resistant.” It is also important to understand the labels when buying sun protection products. Manufacturers use all sorts of mumbo-jumbo to get their product to scream at you from the store shelf. And this is one area where you should resist the urge to grab a bargain product from a discount store. Products are often discounted because they are out-dated. This means the protection offered is far below the stated amount on the label.
And, please throw away the bottle left over from last summer!
Click the links below and learn the answers to these questions:
_which is better, ‘sun block’ or ‘sunscreen’?
_what is the SPF level ACTUALLY PROVIDED? (often very different from what is on the label)
_how long should the SPF level hold up in water?
Check out the video at the top of this page. The effects of UV exposure happen even though your skin may look fine. The video also illustrates just how important sun protection is to your skin.
Doctors and scientists caution against feeling like a great product equals longer time in the sun. Your product might block out 99% of the rays, but that is only if applied under perfect conditions. And no one ever uses the product under perfect conditions. Resist the urge to grab the sprays – sure they are easier, but easier means ‘comes up short on protection.’ Most sprays only shield you from UVB rays. The most powerful protective ingredients – zinc oxide and titanium oxide – are unavailable in sprays.
The most basic advice about how to get sun protection right is on these links:
Wearing sun protection apparel could make a world of difference, especially if being outdoors is part of your job. Some of the clothing blocks out 98% of UV rays!
The effects of sunbathing and tanning add up over years. You can recover the same way a smoker recovers after years of using tobacco. The key is to change your behaviors and adopt a healthier ‘sun’ lifestyle.
If you have already endured more than a few days under the gaze of Mr. Sunny, you might have a skin lesion which has caught your eye. Soon, your smartphone can help you diagnose your chances that you have skin cancer:
What would a desert dweller do?
Look at photos of people living in the hot and arid parts of the world. You see them covered head-to-toe in lightweight linens. This is proof that showing Mr. Sunny your skin when it’s hot out is the worst thing you could do to stay cool. When out in the sun my belief is that light-colored, long-sleeve shirts, long pants, and hats are the way to go! And if you are searching for me at the park look first under the tallest shade tree and work your way down! Sure, everyone has to die sometime, but I will wait for something else (more fun) to catch-up to me and not let the big, yellow monster cook me to a long, slow, wrinkly death! Remember – there is NO safe tan! Check out these links for more info:
What to do about sunburn
If Mr. Sunny does fry you to a crisp, remember your skin has been BURNED by radiation. Now you must protect your skin from infection and take steps to promote healing. If you burned your skin with fire, you would apply some medicine and give the burn some T-L-C. Sunburn deserves the same kind of attention. The MOST important step: drink LOTS of water to help combat the dehydration that happened while you let the sun boil the moisture out of your skin. Drinking water will also give your skin cells valuable nourishment as they try to flush out free radicals and rebuild. NOTE: sugary drinks, caffeinated drinks, and alcoholic drinks all worsen dehydration. Your. Body. Needs. WATER.
Sunburn CAN send you to the doctor
Medical professionals call severe cases of sunburn “sun poisoning” (you know, like “radiation poisoning”). Seek immediate medical attention if these symptoms emerge: facial swelling, fluid-filled blisters. Symptoms of severe cases: headaches, fever, chills, upset stomach or deep fatigue. Look for signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, dry mouth, swollen tongue and dark-colored urine. Symptoms can take hours or a day to emerge, so it’s important to watch a sun-poisoned person for a while after the exposure has taken place. Many sunburn victims tend to “tough it out” and overlook or dismiss serious symptoms. Be sure to discuss with your doctor the medicines in your system at the time of the sun poisoning. Some medications may cause an adverse reaction to over-exposure.
And NEVER, EVER peel away your skin after a sunburn! Remember, sunburn is a WOUND. Peeling away layers of your skin could expose you to risk of infection.
Heal a sunburn through the kitchen!
Check out these links for some natural, easy remedies to help ease the pain and heal you up a little faster.
Photo: “Sunburn” by Kelly Sue DeConnick/Flickr Creative Commons