You may take it for granted, but did you know that your skin is actually your body’s largest organ? With the skin exposed to so many elements over a lifetime, some wear and tear is natural; however, there are steps you can take to minimize damage to your skin.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and artificial sources are among the leading causes of damage to the skin. Long term effects of UV damage can range from premature aging and wrinkles to skin cancer. Protecting your skin against sun damage is vitally important to your skin’s appearance and your overall health throughout your life.
“Over-exposure to the sun and other sources of UV radiation can cause a multitude of issues for your skin, including a loss in elasticity, dryness and visible damage such as wrinkles and discoloration. In addition, the overwhelming majority of skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation,” said Dr. Matthew Endara, a specialist in plastic and reconstructive surgery with Maury Regional Medical Group Plastic Surgery in Columbia and Spring Hill.
Here are four of the top tips for protecting against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that have potential to cause damage to your skin:
- Apply sunscreen. Every day that you are outside, apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to all exposed skin, including the tops of your feet, ears and neck. The SPF number on the sunscreen bottle represents the level of protection against UV rays. While you are outside, reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or other physical activity.
- Cover up. When you are out in the sun, wear a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt and a wide-brimmed hat to protect as much skin as possible.
- Limit direct sun exposure during midday. UV rays are most intense during the middle of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If possible, avoid outdoor activities during mid-day.
- Avoid tanning beds. UV light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and other skin damage.
You can still look like you’ve spent time in the sun, while protecting your skin. There are many options for sunless tanning products that, when combined with sunscreen, can provide a natural-looking tan with the benefits of UV protection.
“Protecting the skin from sun damage is most effective when started early,” said Dr. Endara. “Parents are reminded to protect their children from harmful UV rays by making sure they wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a wide hat when outdoors.”