The sun’s rays make us feel good, and in the short term, make us look good. But our love affair isn’t a two-way street.
A lifetime of sun exposure can cause wrinkles, age spots and other skin problems — as well as increase the risk of skin cancer.
One of the most important ways to take care of your skin is to protect it from the sun.
Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily — taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the number-one cause of skin cancer. Exposure to sunlight during the winter months puts you at the same risk as exposure during the summertime, because UVA rays are present in daylight.
How to Protect Your Skin
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater (for UVB protection) and zinc oxide (for UVA protection) 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming.
- Select clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours (between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.).
- Perform skin self-exams regularly (at least monthly) to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.
The information available on this page should not be used as a substitute for advice from a properly qualified medical professional who can advise you about your own individual medical needs. It is not intended to constitute medical advice and is provided for general information purposes only.