Taking sunbath and enjoying under the sun is always a matter of fun but this fun may turn into dangerous sunburn and other skin disorders without application of proper protective sunscreen. Overexposure to the sun means overexposure to the harmful UV radiations which may redden the skin and cause problems ranging from temporary irritation to permanent damage to the skin.
Harmful effects of overexposure to the sun :
- Mottled pigmentation, or discolored areas of the skin
- Pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions due to decreases in the skin’s immune function
- Elastosis, or the destruction of the elastic and collagen tissue
- Sallowness, or a yellow discoloration of the skin
- Telangiectasias, or the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin
The sun’s UV rays damage the DNA in the cells of your skin,” says Suzanne Olbricht, MD, Chief of Dermatology at BIDMC. “These harmful DNA changes can be quite profound and you will sometimes see the damage in the form of peeling skin.”
According to Olbricht, the skin of youth gets healed but extended long-term exposure to UV radiation can damage the cellular mechanisms that repair DNA. “That’s why the older you get, the more aged your skin looks, and the more skin cancers you may have,” she says. “Your repair mechanisms are damaged—so just a little bit more sun can really affect your skin’s ability to repair itself.”
All skin types can burn. Melanin, the pigment responsible for the color of the skin plays a vital role in protecting the skin naturally from the sun’s UV rays. “The darker one’s skin, the more melanin is present and therefore the greater the UV protection,” Olbricht says. “But no matter the color, your skin can burn. Everyone should take precautions when heading out into the sun.”
Tips to help avoid sunburns:
Be selective in choosing the sunscreen
Try to use a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against all types of harmful rays containing a higher sun protection factor (SPF). “SPF measures how well the sunscreen protects your skin compared to if you were not wearing it,” Olbricht says. “For example, if it normally takes 20 minutes for your skin to turn red, a product with SPF 15 will typically prevent sunburn 15 times longer.”
Apply enough sunscreen and reapply regularly.
Generally take one ounce or a glass full of sunscreen to cover the entire body, including face, ears, and scalp for best protection. “A rule of thumb for reapplying is every two hours,” Olbricht says. “But if you’re swimming or sweating a lot, you will want to reapply more often.”
Avoid the scorching heat of the sun.
The sun’s rays are the most intense between 10 a.m. and 2 pm and the skin is more susceptible to burn during this tenure. Try to avoid going outside during these peak hours.
Cover the body with protective attire.
Use the sunglasses which protects from harmful UV rays, a wide-brimmed hat, and clothing with UPF protection (ultraviolet protection factor) which will protect from the sun. “A lot of children’s summer clothing and swim attire can be found with UPF 50+, which helps block 98% of UVA/UVB rays,” Olbricht says.
Regular self-examination of the skin and routine checkup from the dermatologist.
One should keep a track of any irregularities by self-examining the skin at least once a month. Try to observe the pattern of any moles, blemishes or freckles and notice changes if any. “Most people have moles, and almost all are harmless,” Olbricht says. “But it is important to recognize changes in a mole, such as its size, shape or color. If you notice changes, call your primary care doctor or dermatologist for a checkup.”