As summer approaches, many of us may be thinking of our next sunny destination. But remember that although a tan may look trendy now, excessive sun exposure can lead to the appearance of dark spots on the face, premature skin aging and it increases your risk of skin cancer. Moreover you run the skin of sunburn and this by itself can increase your probability of a serious type of skin cancer called melanoma. It is important to know that a sunburn is very different from a regular thermal burn. In a sunburn, your skin cells get overloaded by genetic mutations that are caused by excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation coming from the sun. This causes the cells of the most superficial part of the skin called the epidermis to die in masses and slough off, leading to a painful sunburn. So it is important to be mindful of the basic safety tips of sun exposure.
- Some people are more prone to sunburns than others. If you have pale skin, red hair and blue eyes, it is best to avoid sun exposure altogether as you are at high risk of sunburn. People who have a darker complexion and brown eyes may be able to withstand more sun.
- Never get exposed at peak times: between 11 am and 4 pm in Lebanon or in areas of similar latitude. During this period, we receive way more harmful UV rays than during the early morning or late afternoon. In countries with a higher latitude it is best to avoid direct sun exposure between 10 am and 5 pm.
- Use a good sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure and reapply thoroughly every 2 hours or after swimming, even if the sunscreen is waterproof. It is important to know that you should choose a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun protective factor) higher than 30 and a good protection against UVA. Look for the words “broad spectrum” on the sunscreen bottle. Make sure to choose a paraben free, non-comedogenic sunscreen. The safety of sunscreen hasn’t been established in infants below the age of 6 months so it is best to avoid exposing them to the sun altogether.
- Use protective clothing such as a broad brimmed hat. If you are at particular risk of sunburn or you have a history of skin cancer, you may choose to wear a protective long sleeved shirt. The UV protective factor (UPF) measures the ability of a particular fabric to protect you from UV. A UPF of 50 is protective. It may be a good idea to get a specialized swimsuit with a high UPF for your infant or toddler if you wish to expose them to the sun.
- Stay in the shade and wear your sunglasses to protect the thin ski around your eyes as well as your eyes themselves.
- Don’t forget to get exposed gradually. Avoid long exposure times right away as they may increase your risk of sunburn, even you already have a darker complexion.
Have a safe time at the beach!