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The Sun & Your Skin

During the summertime, the beach and the pool chair call our names! It’s tempting to go out and lay there for hours to get a deep tan. Though the appearance of tan skin is appealing, the sun’s ultraviolet rays are damaging your skin. As we all know, this overexposure, more often than not, causes a sunburn.

Sunburns are extremely common. According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one-third of adults and nearly 70% of children admit they’ve been sunburned within the past year.

Sunburn is actually a natural defense against ultraviolet lights from the sun. The sun gives off three wavelengths of ultraviolet light: UVC, UVC, and UVA.

UVC rays is the strongest, but thankfully doesn’t reach the Earth’s surface. UVA and UVB rays not only reach your beach towel, but they penetrate your skin. Skin damage is caused by both UVA and UVB rays.

So what causes sunburn? In order to protect itself against UVA and UVB rays, your body starts to make more melanin. Melanin is the dark pigment in the outer layer of your skin, or the epidermis. The increase in melanin causes a darker color of a tan. However, most people do not produce enough melanin to protect the skin well, causing the UV light to burn the skin.

Sunburn is the most obvious sign that you’ve been sitting outside for too long without protection. But sun damage isn’t always visible. Under the surface, ultraviolet light can alter your DNA, prematurely aging your skin. Over time, DNA damage can contribute to skin cancers, including deadly melanoma.

This sun damage applies to all skin types, even darker skin tones. Sunburns appear different on dark skin than on fair skin. On dark skin tones, there is no redness, but there is still pain and skin hot to the touch that peels later. People with darker skin tones are just as susceptible to skin cancer as those with fair skin tones.

When you get a sunburn, your skin becomes irritated. If the burn is severe, you can develop swelling and sunburn blisters. A few days later, your skin will start peeling and itching as your body tries to rid itself of sun-damaged cells.

The lobster red skin look isn’t a healthy look, much less an attractive one! To avoid sunburn, be sure to cover your skin to block exposure. If you leave any exposed areas, use sunscreen. This includes those harder to reach places, like your ears or the back of your elbows, knees, or neck. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours. Staying out of the sun during peak hours (from 10 am to 3 pm) will also lower the risk of sunburn.

Are you spending hours in your pool chair to get that golden tan? You’re actually doing more harm to your skin cells than you think. Tanning should be done gradually and sensibly, with short exposure and building up over time.

Medical attention should be sought if the burn is accompanied by a high fever, extreme pain, headache, confusion, nausea or chills. You should also seek medical attention if the burned skin shows signs of infection such as increasing pain, tenderness, swelling and yellow drainage.

Not all sunburns need medical attention. If your sun burn is minor, here are some tips on how to treat it:

Summertime fun is best found outside! The sun is a great source of Vitamin D, but be careful not to overexpose yourself to its harmful rays!

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