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The over-exposure to these harmful UV rays may take years to manifest into skin cancer cells; that is why it is so important to protect your skin from an early age and all through your adulthood.

Along about the end of March people begin preparing, dreaming of, and wishing for summer to finally arrive.  With summer comes the ability to go to the pool, do gardening, visit the beach, and take long walks in the warm sunshine.  The problem is far too many people expose their skin to harmful UV (Ultraviolet) rays that damage the skin and cause skin cancer.

UV Rays

You may think that if it is a cloudy or overcast day that you are safe from harmful UV rays; this is a myth as UV rays penetrate through the clouds and will cause your skin damage.  For example; have you ever been working outside or been at the pool or beach when it’s cloudy out and you think you are not getting any sun?  Then you go home and shower and find that you have a significant sunburn.  Cloud cover does not protect you; you are in as much danger, if not more, when you are participating in outdoor activities when the sun is somewhat concealed by cloud cover. 

UV rays are at their highest during late spring and early summer during the time of day from mid-morning to late afternoon.  Something a lot of people don’t know is that UV rays are not only harmful during spring and summer; they are also projected off of snow, water, and even concrete.  You can be damaging your skin in the cold of winter and you don’t even know it. 

Protecting Yourself From UV Rays 

It is recommended that you use nothing less than 15 SPF (Sun Protective Factor) to help block exposed areas of your skin from UV exposure.  You should also protect your eyes with sunglasses that specify the fact that they block harmful UV rays, as your eyes can be effected by the harmful UV rays of the sun just as much as your skin can.  Other things you can do to protect yourself from the harmful UV rays is:

  • Wear a hat that covers all of your head and has a wide enough brim to shade your face and ears as well.
  • If you must be working outside, wear clothing that covers exposed skin; especially if your job requires you to spend long hours working outside daily.
  • Reapply sunscreen lotion often; even if it states it is waterproof, you should always be aware that it does wash off and water or sweat can reduce the protection of the lotion.
  • Take cover in shaded areas as often as you can to get out of the direct sunlight.
  • Protect your lips; many people forget this important area of skin.  Your lips have very delicate skin and can easily be damaged by over exposure to UV rays.

How do Sunscreen Lotions Work?

The sun and the UV rays can damage your skin within fifteen minutes of exposure.  Applying a suitable sunscreen lotion prior to exposure to the sun will limit the amount of UV rays that penetrate the skin.  Sunscreen lotions are rated by the degree in how effectively they protect your skin.  SPF (Sun Protection Factor) is what you need to look for when purchasing a lotion.  You should buy sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher; anything less and you are at risk of harmful UV rays damaging your skin. 

Sunscreens work by reflecting the UV sunlight or scattering it by way that the chemicals in the lotion absorb into the skin and block the damaging UV sunlight rays.  It is important to note the SPF degree and the expatriation date of the lotion.  If it is outdated, the chemicals in the lotion may not work properly or may not work at all.  Your skin may also have a reaction to certain types of sunscreens so if you get a bad reaction to one lotion, try a different one.  If you find that your skin reacts negatively to every sunscreen lotion you’ve tried, consult your physician and ask for his or her recommendation.  

Getting a Healthy Tan

Contrary to what many believe, you can still achieve a golden tan even if you use the recommended SPF 15 or higher sunscreen.  Actually, you will have a more even and natural tan because the sunscreen protects you from getting sunburned which then leads to the skin pealing and causes an uneven or unnatural tan. 

The secret to getting a healthy golden tan is to work at it slowly.  As with most things in life, moderation is the key.  If you are tanning at the pool or the beach, remember that the water and the sand are reflectors for UV rays; it is very important to apply sunscreen before you get to the pool or beach and reapply it several times while you are there.  It is also very important to condition your skin after you have spent time in the sun.  After showering, apply a good moisturizer to your skin to keep it well conditioned.

Tanning Beds

Tanning beds accelerate the tanning process because they provide direct UV rays at higher degrees than what you can get from the sun itself.  Tanning beds not only damage the skin with UV rays but they also cause the skin to look as though it is aging faster.  The natural sun along with proper SPF protection is a far better means to tanning than laying in a tanning bed for twenty minutes a day. 

Be Sun Smart

There is no reason to shun the sun as long as you are prepared and educated about what the sun can do to your skin; understanding the potentially dangerous effects of UV rays, which can lead to many different types of skin cancer, is your best defense.  You can still tan and spend time doing outdoor activities as long as you are aware of the dangers and take the proper precautions.  It’s your skin and it’s the only skin you have, so by all means, take care of it.