The summer is undoubtedly upon us, and in many places that means that the sun is out and the heat is here. Whilst it’s always great to get outside and soak up some rays, it is also a good idea to protect yourself against the sun, and to make sure not to overdo it when it comes to how much time you spend outdoors.
The sun can be incredibly harmful, especially when you spend too long outdoors in the summer, and it is wise to stay in the know in order to best protect yourself.
The sun is a constant source of ultraviolet radiation. The UV rays from the sun can’t be seen, or even felt, so it is easy to not be aware that anything negative is happening to your skin.
There are two different types of harmful rays that come from the sun.
The most prominent of the two are UVA rays. These rays get into the most inner layers of the skin, and they are largely responsible for premature ageing and wrinkles.
The second type of rays are UVB rays, which are those which cause burning of the skin, and contribute to the onset of skin cancer. Approximately two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year in the United States, with UV rays from the sun being largely responsible.
Exposure to the Sun
It can be helpful to know that the sun’s rays are generally at the highest intensity between 10:00 and 16:00. Staying indoors during these hours on incredibly hot days will help you to protect your skin and preserve your health. As you would most likely expect, the sun’s rays are also generally the most powerful during the summer months - although this isn’t always the case.
Some environments cause the sun’s rays to be reflected, which can then cause increased exposure. This is true of water and sand, so it is especially important to take care when you are at the beach on a hot day.
When your skin is unprotected for even short periods of time, then it is likely that you could incur sunburn, or even sun damage that isn't immediately visible.
Although your skin can easily be damaged by the sun, it is not the only part of your body that you need to pay attention to protecting. Your eyes can also experience harm from the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
Excess exposure to the sun has been linked to the early onset of cataracts. It is important to protect against this if you are to maintain optimum eye health.
Going on holiday to a sunny destination is an exciting and enjoyable thing to do. However, this can often cause us to be more careless with protecting our skin then we may usually be.
When you do enter a sunnier climate, such as to go on holiday, then it is important that you gradually increase your exposure to the sun.
It is also important to consider your skin type. For example, if you have very fair skin then you will want to limit your exposure to the sun with even greater caution then if you have darker skin. Those with fair skin have lower levels of melanin, which is the pigment in our cells that protects us against the sun and encourages the skin to tan instead of burn.
Whenever you are in an environment that is hotter than you are used to, then be sure to always use an appropriate amount of a high quality sun cream. When you are choosing your sun cream try to avoid those which contain oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate, as these ingredients can actually be harmful to skin health!
Vitamin D & Lycopene
Although restricting the time that you spend in the sun is essential for the health of your skin, it is also important that you allow yourself adequate time in the sunshine so that your body can produce ample amounts of vitamin D.
Vitamin D actually helps to protect against cancer and this is something that we can easily miss out on through our diets. The most prominent dietary sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, beef liver, cheese and egg yolks.
Lycopene is an antioxidant that is known to help repair the damage caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. Lycopene is also known to increase levels of melanin in the body, which then further aids in the protection against the sun. This incredible antioxidant is found in abundance in tomatoes, and including them daily in the diet can go a long way to helping protect the health of the skin.
Enjoying yourself in the hotter months is of course something that we should all be able to do, but doing so safely and without harming our health in the long-term should always be a priority!