For many of us, summer means fun in the sun.
We flock to beaches, parks, and backyard barbecues to soak up the rays.
And while some sun exposure stimulates natural vitamin D production, too much can wreak havoc on your skin.
And by “too much,” we mean as little as 15 minutes!
That’s because the sun’s rays contain two main types of ultraviolet radiation (UV)—ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B.
Put simply, UVA may age our skin and UVB can cause sunburns and cancer.
Both are bad in their own ways.
We don’t want to put a damper on your outdoor plans—there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself and still enjoy summer!
But as we know, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. . .
Here are 5 dark truths about sun exposure you should know before summer rolls around!
1. Wear Sunscreen Year-Round
Sunscreen is synonymous with summer but it should be synonymous with skin in general!
While UVB rays are strongest in the summertime, they can still burn and damage your skin at any time of year. This is especially true at high altitudes or when reflected off snow or ice.
UVA rays maintain the same strength year-round and can damage the skin despite clouds and fog that come with colder seasons.
If you’re curious as to the exact strength of the UV rays in your area on any particular day, most weather apps provide a UV Index.
So what’s the solution to year-round UV rays?
Our dermatologists recommend applying at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 30 sunscreen every two hours at minimum while exposed to the sun, regardless of the season.
Generally speaking, the higher the SPF, the greater the protection.
Also make sure your sunblock says “broad-spectrum” on the bottle, as this type protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays!
Lastly, it’s important to remember that sunscreen can be accidentally removed by brushing up against objects or via exposure to sweat and water.
Be sure to apply it liberally!
2. Sunlight Ages You Prematurely
“It’s just bad genetics!”
“Your skin is just dry—moisturize and you’ll be back to normal in no time!”
“You just need a tan!” (talk about adding insult to injury!)
The harsh reality of prematurely-aged skin, also known as photoaging, is that it is caused by overexposure to the sun.
While there are procedures that can cosmetically enhance skin affected by photoaging. . .
Prevention is better than cure.
Dermatologists estimate that the sun causes 80% of premature skin aging. It’s particularly insidious because this damage can take place without you knowing.
That’s because photoaging occurs at the dermis, the deepest layer of skin. As a result, it can take years for that damage to become apparent.
So, your skin can appear healthy even though it isn’t, leading many to neglect their already-damaged skin.
That’s like dumping kerosene on a fire.
Photoaging can manifest itself as brown spots, wrinkles, uneven skin texture and pigmentation, and spider veins.
While these changes can occur due to the natural aging process, overexposure to sunlight can bring them to bear much sooner than they would have otherwise.
We can protect ourselves from photoaging with sunblock, wearing clothes while in the sun, seeking shade while outside, and generally avoiding the sun at its peak UV intensity, which is approximately from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.
Time already flies on its own—don’t speed it up through photoaging.
3. Even Minor Tans Damage Skin
Everyone knows that sunburns damage the skin, but tans have a sterling reputation in the beauty world.
Unfortunately, science isn’t as keen on them.
Just like a sunburn, a tan is the body’s response to DNA damage caused by UVA exposure. These rays penetrate deeply into the epidermis—the top layer of skin—triggering the production of melanin, which darkens the skin’s complexion.
Think of a tan as temporary scar tissue—it’s meant to protect your body from further damage.
Similarly, there is a notion out there that having a base tan acts as a shield against future UV damage.
We wish the golden tan of your dreams also protected you from the sun, we really do!
But it’s our job to tell you the truth.
And the truth is that even the most potent tans only provide about 5 SPF, well short of the minimum 30 SPF our dermatologists recommend.
Again, sorry to burst your bubble.
But there are other ways to improve your look while staying cancer-free!
4. Darker Complexions Aren’t Immunity
The darker one’s skin color, the more melanin there is in the skin. The more melanin that’s present, the more protection there is from UV rays.
Unfortunately, increased protection is not immunity.
Every human, regardless of complexion, is susceptible to skin damage caused by sunlight.
We’re talking the gauntlet of conditions. . .
People of color can and do suffer from skin cancer, photoaging, and even sunburns.
Due to the built-in protection melanin provides, it’s easy for those with darker complexions to ignore the dangers of UV light.
This can mean little to no sunscreen application, not limiting exposure to the sun, and not getting the yearly full-body exams our dermatologists recommend.
As a result, skin cancers tend to be detected later and at more advanced stages in people of color compared to those with lighter skin.
Regardless of skin color, we all need to protect ourselves from UV rays.
5. Certain Medications Increase Photosensitivity
We’ve already discussed photoaging, but what’s photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity is a condition that makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
This increased sensitivity can lead to rashes, blisters, and severe sunburns—even from relatively minor sun exposure.
What many people don’t know is that certain medications can cause photosensitivity by releasing chemicals that absorb UV light, trapping harmful compounds in the skin.
Medications that can cause photosensitivity can include but are not limited to: birth control, blood pressure pills, allergy pills, and antifungal medication.
As with any medication, it is crucial to speak with your doctor about any potential side effects.
What You Can Do About Sun Exposure
The best way to combat the negative effects of sunlight is to prevent overexposure to UV rays.
That means plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen, at least SPF 30, applied every two hours and even more frequently if you sweat or swim.
Not to mention wearing clothes when in the sun, seeking shade, and avoiding exposure from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M.
Because like we said before, prevention is the best cure.
But sometimes, the rubber meets the road without warning.
That’s where SINY comes in.
At SINY Dermatology, our dermatologists and dermatologic surgeons can meet your medical and cosmetic needs related to sun exposure.
We can address everything from photoaging to skin cancer based on the best science and technology available.
Make sure you and your family are prepared ahead of summer. . .
Click here to book an appointment or call 800-778-3090!