The warm of the sun seems to be nice. 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: Exposure to it causes many of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces and is the number one cause of skin cancer.

In point, exposure causes many 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. 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.

Gosh! So the sun changes skin. How?

The Exposure causes:

  • Pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma) skin lesions
  • Benign tumors
  • Fine and coarse wrinkles
  • Freckles
  • Discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation
  • A yellow discoloration of the skin
  • The dilation of small blood vessels under the skin

Then, How Can I Protect Skin From the Sun?

Nothing can completely undo the damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent sun-related skin problems:

  • Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater at least 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every few hours thereafter
  • Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection
  • Wear sunglasses with total UV protection
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats, long sleeved shirts, and pants
  • Avoid direct exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
  • Perform skin self-exams regularly 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
  • Avoid tanning beds

 Don’t be betrayed by color or cost of Sunglasses! The ability to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag. While both plastic and glass lenses absorb some UV light, UV absorption is improved by adding certain chemicals to the lens material during manufacturing or by applying special lens coatings.

Always choose sunglasses that are labeled as blocking 99-100% of UV rays. Some manufacturers’ labels will say “UV absorption up to 400nm.” This is the same thing as 100% UV absorption. Look before you choose!

Sunburn doesn’t only happen during the summer! Water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn. Protect yourself year round by using sunscreen with protection from both UVA and UVB rays, and an SPF of 15 or greater. Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen on the exposed areas of your skin whenever possible! Block the Sun, Not the Fun!