Spending time in the sun is one of the best ways to harness vitamin D. In fact, doctors recommend exposing your skin to direct sun rays so they can activate your natural ability to create vitamin D. The catch? Direct exposure also leaves you at risk of skin problems such as premature aging, sunburns, and in the worst cases, can increase the risk of skin cancer.
So, how can we protect our skin while also enjoying the benefits that come with sunlight exposure?
Slathering on sunscreen is one of the most common options for protecting your skin. There is no reason why you shouldn’t grab a hat and go out in the sun as long as you’ve applied a protective sunscreen layer on your skin. Sunscreen protects your skin against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, both of which are responsible for sunburns, age spots, skin cancer, wrinkling, and other long-term effects on your skin.
Lathering up on sunscreen protects your skin from these rays, allowing you to spend time in the sun safely. How does this happen? There are two types of sunscreen: chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen.
Chemical sunscreen works by absorbing UV rays before they penetrate the skin and damage your skin cells. The active ingredients of this chemical filter form a protective film that acts as a barrier, absorbing the rays and converting them into heat before releasing them away from the skin. Common active ingredients include aminobenzoic acid, avobenzone, octinoxate and oxybenzone.
There have been a few concerns raised in the media about oxybenzone, but research shows “no conclusive evidence that oxybenzone is harmful to humans,” according to Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing.
Mineral sunscreen are essentially physical blockers that sit atop your skin and reflect UV rays away from the skin. Unlike chemical sunscreen, they don’t penetrate the skin. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are common active ingredients. These tend to be thicker, and not always the best choice for oily or acne-prone skin.
Using Sun Protective Clothing
Sun protective clothing offers extra protection for people who are more sensitive to the sun, such as those with fair skin, children, and people who are on medication, as some drugs can increase sun sensitivity. Such apparel comes with Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) ratings indicating its effectiveness against both UVA and UVB rays.
Sun Protection For Hair
While most people will rarely go out in the sun without their favorite sunscreen, research shows that excessive exposure to UV rays can be hard on your hair too, fading or drying out your hair and causing breakage. Proper sun safety means protecting yourself from head to toe by investing in sunscreen for your scalp and hair in addition to your go-to-sunscreen and facial Sun Protection Factor (SPF).
Spray or powder sunscreen will protect your scalp from sunburn, while formulated sunscreen designed for hair and scalp will offer total protection for both. You can also invest in a good hat for a much needed physical barrier.
Sun Protection for Eyes
UV radiation also poses serious damage to your eye health and is associated with an increased risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration (which causes vision loss), corneal sunburn, and conjunctival cancer. That said, you can still enjoy the great outdoors by investing in proper eye protection. Some simple strategies to protect your eyes include:
- Wearing sunglasses and/or shades that block 99% to 100% of UV rays
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat with no holes
- Using prescription glasses or contact lenses with UV filters
What to Look for When Buying Sun Protective Gear
- When choosing sunscreen, go for a brand that has a high SPF rating: at least 30. Always remember to apply liberally to increase its effectiveness, and reapply every two hours.
- Also, consider using a broad-spectrum brand as this will offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays. If you have very sensitive skin or are shopping for your kids, consider choosing mineral sunscreen as its ingredients are milder.
- For sun-protective clothing, look for a high UPF rating as this indicates better protection against UV radiation.
- Sunglasses that offer 100% protection against UV rays are also best, while wide hats made of tightly woven fabric will offer increased protection for your eyes, hair, and scalp.
Your skin plays a vital role by protecting all your internal organs. Taking simple measures to protect yourself from the sun before heading out can help prevent cancer, sunburns, and lots of other skin problems. Do you have more questions on skin care that we can help with? Contact us!