The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has officially declared the month of July as Ultraviolet Safety Awareness Month. It might seem obvious that HHS would choose July for that distinction, considering that it is the month most universally associated with being out in the sun.
However, no matter what month it is, many people still try to deny or ignore the importance of the effects of ultraviolet light from the sun and from tanning beds on the human body. The fact remains: the skin is the most UV-affected organ in the human body, and therefore merits protection.
When you think about it, your skin spends every minute of every day protecting your internal organs from all sorts of environmental assaults, including heat, injury, infection, and dehydration. The least you can do is to protect the skin from the forces that damage the skin the most.
Medical research has proven, without question, that protecting your skin from ultraviolet light prevents skin cancer. Even without that threat, the harmful effects of UV light also cause what is called photoaging, which is the effects that make your skin look older.
UV light degrades collagen and elastin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles developing sooner than normal. Additionally, superficial damage from UV causes “age spots” and damage to blood vessels, all of which prematurely age your skin’s appearance.
To avoid any of this skin damage, protecting your skin is imperative! This does not mean that you have to stay inside all summer in a dark room.
You just need to take some very simple and common sense steps to accomplish that goal. These include the following:
- Wear the kind of summer clothing that protects your skin. A wide brim hat can cover your face and neck and protect those tissues. UV protective clothing lines are now readily available. I have personally used the line available through my favorite clothing store, LL Bean, during trips to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Low and behold, I received no sun burns!
- Avoid the sun when it is at its strongest. Between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M., direct sunlight is most likely to burn and damage your skin. Avoiding sunlight during those hours can allow you to frolic outside without worry before or after sun exposure.
- Apply sunscreen generously to all exposed areas of your skin. In other words, you should put sunscreen on whatever areas of your body are not covered by your protective clothing. Also remember to reapply sunscreen during the course of the day if you are going to be out for long periods of time, or you are going to be active (and therefore sweating) or in the water.
- Wear UV-protective sunglasses. These specific sunglasses decrease effects of UV light to the sensitive skin around the eyes. They also dramatically reduce the tendency to squint, which will decrease the appearance of crow’s feet.
- The absolute most important point is to be proactive. Figuratively speaking, one ounce of sunscreen protection is worth way more than a pound of cure. No matter what the weather looks like in the morning, think ahead and apply your sunscreen. One of the worst sunburns I have had in my adult life occurred on an overcast day when I did not apply sunscreen and the sun suddenly and brightly appeared later.
Please be aware that July is the month to emphasize UV Safety Awareness. The key, however, is to develop good sun protection habits that will carry you through the remaining months of the year.
Here at Maine Laser Skin Care, we carry several great sunscreens that are specifically made for those with sensitive skin and those who have had aesthetic procedures. But whatever your choice of sunscreen is, just use it!