Important Sun Protection Facts
By Clinical Nurse Specialist Anna Katzman
While Fridays are the start of fun, (also known as a weekend), “Fry days” are the start of discomfort, accelerated aging, and possibly even cancer. May 25th is both a Friday and a “Don’t Fry Day”, as designated by The National Council on Skin Care Prevention and can offer us a new start to having fun in the sun while minimizing the risks.
Before we head outside, it’s important to shed some light on what’s fact and what’s fiction. Dr. Sarina Elmariah, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, comments on the following statements:
Fact or Fiction?
Sunburns damage skin but tans don’t.
A sunburn can increase your risk of both melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, while a tan can also increase your risk of non-melanoma skin cancers. Both sunburns and suntans can increase your risk of wrinkled, aged skin.
You don’t need to wear lotion under a rash guard.
With clothing with a UPF of 50 and above, it’s not necessary to wear sunscreen underneath; however, it doesn’t hurt to do so.
Dark clothing protects better than light clothing.
“This is true in parts,” Says Dr. Elmariah. Dark colors absorb more rays so they don’t penetrate your skin. The color is less important than the material in protecting you from the sun. Look for a tighter weave of fabric, including 100% polyester, unbleached cotton, tightly-woven cotton blends, and loose-fitting clothing. These protect you better than, for example, a bleached cotton T-shirt.
All sunscreens are the same.
The best sunscreens block both UVB and UVA rays. These sunscreens are labeled “UVA & UVB” or “broad spectrum”. “SPF” refers only to UVB rays, so don’t judge the quality of the sunscreen simply by the SPF rating.
Related: Sunburned Eyes
The medicine you’re taking can increase your risk for sunburn.
Medications that increase risk of sunburn include: antibiotics, anti-inflammatories diuretics, statins, and retinoids.
I can’t undo sun damage.
Cosmetically you can reduce the appearance of sun-damaged skin, Dr. Elmariah offers; however, there is no complete way to physically reduce the damage. Lasers can be used to reduce wrinkles, sun spots, discoloration, and more pronounced blood vessels. Pre-cancerous skin conditions can be treated with topical chemotherapies and light treatment and can reduce the chance of pre-cancer from developing into cancer temporarily, but there is no true reversal of sun damage.
All sun exposure is bad for you.
Dr. Elmariah stresses that you should limit your exposure to the sun between the hours of 10:00 and 2:00 or even 10:00 and 4:00. She admits that some sun exposure may be good for you, as UV rays increase your body’s supply of vitamin D and improve your mood.
It’s only April so I don’t have to wear suntan lotion.
The best habit is to wear sunscreen all the time, as UVA rays remain constant year round. However, realistically, Dr. Elmariah suggests, you should wear sunscreen from April until October.
Make every day “Don’t Fry Day." You’ll have a better summer and a healthier life!
More from GalTime:
- Popular Beauty Myths, Debunked!
- 5 Foods for Wrinkle Protection
- The Sun Smart Girl's Guide to Bronzer
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Anna Katzman is a Clinical Nurse Specialist in psychiatry, certified in child and adolescent mental health and a freelance writer and an intern for GalTime. You can visit her blog for additional information.