How UV Sun Rays Damage Your Health - How to Protect Yourself and Your Family
Spending time outside in sunlight and fresh air can feel both relaxing and invigorating. Sunlight has several known benefits. Exposure to sunlight triggers the body release of the hormones, serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a chemical signal in the nervous system that helps regulate an individual’s mood and maintain their focus. Melatonin is chemical in the body that supports healthy sleep.1 Lower serotonin levels have been identified in persons experiencing a major depression with symptoms that have a seasonal pattern, also known as seasonal affective disorder. However, the benefits of sun exposure are not without significant health risks. The most notable risk of time spent in the direct sunlight is the exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Along with its beneficial light, the sun also emits Ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays. Overexposure to harmful UV rays can lead to numerous, harmful, side effects. UVA light can penetrate as deep as the dermis level of the skin. UVA rays damage the skin cells’ DNA, causing them to age prematurely. The quantity and severity of wrinkles developing in the skin as it ages is directly correlated to Ultraviolet A radiation. UV radiation causes skin to look older, faster. Cancer is a result of changing patterns of cell development, dictated by DNA. By damaging the DNA in skin cells, Exposure of UVA ray damages cells making a person more likely to develop skin cancer. Many people think of the sun as damaging the skin at the time of exposure, like a sunburn. However, the changes to the DNA, or the “blueprint” of the cells, means that damage will continue as future skin cells are produced.
Like UVA, ultraviolet B radiation can damage the skin on the DNA level. Generally considered more potent than their UVA counterparts, ultraviolet B causes sunburns on the skin and eyes. UVB is also the main culprit of most skin cancers.2
How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones From UV Radiation
Despite the inherit risk of UV radiation exposure, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself, and your loved ones, from its harmful effects. When it comes to the prevention of skin cancer, a little preparation goes a long way. Even daily exposure to sun through routine activities, like driving to work or walking the dog, can add up to skin damage. Everyone should apply a moisturizer with sunscreen daily unless otherwise advised by their dermatologist.
There are two things everyone should know before they have fun in the sun: their skin type and the UV index of the area they are in. Different skin types can be more vulnerable to different levels of sun exposure than others. Whereas some skin types, like skin types 1 and 2, are more prone to sunburns, skin types like 5 and 6 are also susceptible to certain types of skin cancers.
It is important to be aware of your area’s UV index during the times of your sunlight exposure. Peak sun hours increase UV radiation exposure. The Environmental protect agency or EPA actively tracks the forecast of the UV index. The EPA UV Index tracker can be focused to most zip codes in the United States. Using this information provided can help you plan your outdoor activities and help stay safe from harmful UV radiation.
The use of sunscreen is imperative, for you and your family. Remember, not all sunscreens are created equal. To be effective in protecting your skin from the harmful rays of the sun, your sunscreen should at least SPF 30, water resistant, and offer broad-spectrum protection. “Broad-spectrum protection” means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Spray-on sunscreens aren’t as effective as lotion, since most of the sprayed application is lost before it reaches the skin. It’s also important to apply the proper amount of sunscreen to ensure that your skin has adequate sun protection. Most adults require at least one ounce of sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. An ounce of sunscreen can fit into the palm of your hand. Remember, vulnerable areas like ears and lips. Repeat the application after swimming or sweating heavily.
Some other sun smart tips that can help keep you and your loved ones stay safe from UV rays, are to wear sunglasses, large-brimmed hats, and clothing with an “Ultraviolet Protection Factor” rating. Seek shade, whenever possible. You should also get regular full skin exams by a dermatologist every 6 to 12 months, or immediately upon finding something suspicious on your skin, during a self-exam.
We understand that this advice can feel overwhelming and maybe hard to keep up with, especially if you are in the middle of a fun outdoor activity. That is why we would recommend wearing an Eclipse Rx the solar powered, personal UV sun monitor + activity tracker. Eclipse Rx can helps you keep track of your personal sun exposure, monitor your area’s UV index, and gently remind you to apply sunscreen when it is time. This way Eclipse Rx can help keep you safe and LUV Life Outdoors.
1(Rachel Nall, 2018)
2(The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team, 2017)