During the last years, new cases of serious diseases like skin cancer in general, and melanoma (a really aggressive type) in particular, have undergone a marked growth; this, added to the increase in the incidence of minor pathologies like sunlight sensitivity or solar allergies, accounts for the essential importance of prevention when it comes to giving advice on how to enjoy a healthy summer.
The depletion of the atmospheric ozone layer and the reflection of sunlight in pollution particles seem to explain, if partially, the higher intensity of the sun rays.
UVA and UVB rays are responsible for the increase of skin pigmentation (or tanning); it’s often seen as a desirable thing, but we mustn’t confuse being tanned with being healthier, nor thinner, nor with having a smoother skin. It’s, in fact, a temporary situation for which we pay a very high price in terms of skin damage.
Exposure to intense sunlight attacks the cell membranes; it accelerates skin aging, weakens immunity and favours the growth of benign and even malignant tumours, like melanoma. This damage is cumulative (skin has its own memory), so it’s very important to be properly photoprotected in the first years of life.
Photoprotectors, then, should not be regarded as mere cosmetics, but as necessary products to delay skin aging, spots, and also to prevent solar sensitivity, burns and sun poisoning. They must avert erythema (or reddening of the skin) and cell damage (SPF higher than 30), and this must be stated in the package.
– Sunscreen must be applied 20 minutes before getting out in the sun, and must be renewed every 3-4 hours in all the exposed body areas.
– We should avoid the peak sun intensity hours (or short shadow hours), that is, between 11.00 and 16.00. The longer our shadow is, the lesser sun damage.
– Fair skins require higher sun protection factors, and sunscreen must be reapplied more frequently.
– People on medication, having pre-existent conditions, and older persons are all more vulnerable to sun damage, and they must protect themselves with special care.
– Dehydrated skins are more sensitive, so we’d better be properly hydrated before sun exposure.
– Protection must be extreme on scars and wounded skin areas.
– Don’t forget to protect your lips, fingers and toes.
– Sunglasses with UV protection are important to prevent eye damage (cataracts and retinopathies), specially in the case of light coloured eyes, and this kind of protection should be used from childhood.
– Dark coloured clothes protect you better from sun damage than light coloured or white ones (unless they have been treated to this end).
– Eating food rich in Beta carotene (orange and red coloured fruits and vegetables), and in vitamin C (fruits), is advisable.
The importance of wearing sunglasses
It’s highly recommended to use proper sunglasses, in order to reduce visible light direct radiation, to block dangerous ultraviolet radiation (UV), to get rid of that annoying glare and to enhance contrast. Wearing caps or peaks reinforces the protective action of the shades.
Using bad quality sunglasses can be more harmful than wearing nothing at all. Shades protect our eyes from very serious damage; they are much more than a simple fashion accessory.
This advice is particularly essential for children. Their lens is transparent till they are 10 or 12 years old, so their eyes absorb most of the radiation. Keeping in mind it’s key for their eyesight, we should never buy them toy sunglasses, and make sure their eyewear meets the European safety standards.
Before acquiring sunglasses, we must check that they carry the CE seal and they are correctly labelled, including the category they belong to and the UV filter rating.
UV rays cause, after prolonged exposure, an increase of visual pathologies: photophobia, keratitis, conjunctivitis, lens damage that provokes cataracts… The quality of the UV filter in our sunglasses is, therefore, essential.
0 0 to 20% Very low levels of sunlight, cloudy days.
1 20 to 57% Medium levels of sunlight.
2 57 to 82% Sunny days during late fall, winter and early spring.
3 82 to 92% Very sunny days, outdoors activity. The most common category.
4 92 to 97% Snow, altitude above 3.000 metres. Not suitable for driving.
We must not be misled by the colour of the lenses. Some white lenses filter 100% of UV radiation, while some very dark ones don’t filter properly UV rays, although they do block visible light; this way pupils are dilated and the eye tissues let in more UV radiation. The really important thing is the category of the sun filter.
Do you know someone who’s planning to take the kids to the beach this summer?
Do your friends spend long hours in the sun?