It’s quite understandable that everyone wants to have fun, hang out, etc. especially, during summer to enjoy some of the sunrays, and enjoy the beautiful weather, but it is very important that we make use of some protection because ̶ The rays of the sun can be harmful!
Do you know that too much exposure to sun rays could be very harmful to you?
Although, small amounts of sun rays are needed for production of vitamin D in the body which is important for formation of strong bones, muscles and healthy skin, but each year in the U.S., over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people.
The harmful health effects that result from sun rays could either beacuteorchronic.
Acute effect means that the result of the damage caused by the sun rays is not life threatening and is reversible, this include mainly sunburn and tanning, while, Chronic effect means that the damage caused by the sun rays is life threatening and is irreversible which includes premature aging, skin cancer, eye damage, and also immune suppression.
How does the sun rays cause harmful effects?
The layer of air high above us in the stratosphere contains the ozone layer which blocks many of the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays before they reach the Earth. But due to ozone layer depletion, there is decrease in protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation in the atmosphere.
UV radiation is part of the electromagnetic (light) spectrum that reaches the earth from the sun but it has wavelengths shorter than visible light which makes it invisible to the naked eye. These wavelengths are mainly classified asUVA, UVB, or UVC.
When both UVA and UVB penetrate the atmosphere, they play an important role in conditions such as sunburn, premature aging, skin cancer, eye damage, immune suppression and lots more. Although, UVA rays do not cause sunburn, they penetrate deeply into the skin to cause wrinkles.
Many of the people ignore health warnings that covering up in the sun is better than exposing their skin to sun rays. They claim that the sun releases 'feel-good' endorphins, not knowing that this leads to addiction to UV radiation that causes more damage. Skin damage due to sun rays increases in this progression: from mild sunburn to severe skin cancers.
Sun tanning is the process whereby skin color is darkened or tanned due to an increase in the number of melanocytes (pigment cells). It is a risk factor in the incidence of skin cancers; Researchers estimate that ‘indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.’ It was discovered that in females 15 to 29 years old, the torso/trunk is the most common location for developing melanoma, which may be due to high-risk tanning behaviors.
Sunburn is the term for red, sometimes swollen, and painful skin, due to overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Sunburn can range from mild to severe depending on the extent of exposure and the skin type. The symptoms of sunburn vary among individuals. Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes, but peak redness will take 12-24 hours to occur.
Minor sunburns typically will cause nothing more than slight redness and tenderness to the affected areas, while in a more severe case, skin blistering can occur. Extreme sunburns can be painful to the point of debilitation, and it may require hospital care. In much more severe cases, symptoms include: fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, weakness. In extreme cases, symptoms of shock can occur, which include fainting, low blood pressure and extreme weakness.
Due to variations in the intensity of UV radiation that is passing through the atmosphere, the risk of sunburn increases as you approach the equator. The higher the latitude, the lower the intensity of the UV rays one is exposed to, and intensity varies by season, location, and time of exposure.
This is one of the chronic effects which result from repeated exposure to UV radiation. It encompasses a number of clinical signs which include; dryness, sagging of the skin, wrinkles, accentuated skin furrows, and mottled pigmentation, all these are the results of degenerative changes in elastin and collagen (the main structural protein in the body which is responsible for its elasticity).
Too much exposure to sun rays damages the collagen in the body therefore leading to premature aging. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that up to 90% of skin changes associated with aging are really caused by a lifetime exposure to UVA rays.
Scientists have found out that overexposure to UV radiation may reduce the proper functioning of the body’s immune system and the skin’s natural defenses. Grossman and Leffell conclude that ‘the immunosuppressive effects of UV radiation may be as important as the carcinogenic effects of UV radiation in the establishment and progressive growth of UV-induced skin tumors.’
This is also among the chronic effects that occur due to UV exposure and can ultimately lead to blindness. More than 99% of UV radiation is absorbed by the front of the eyes and this could lead to corneal damage, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the World Health Organization have identified UV as a ‘proven human carcinogen.’ Too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun causes damage to the genetic material (DNA) present in the skin cells. If the damage is severe overtime, the cells actively divide and proliferate causing nucleotid damage. Failure of cells to repair this damage leads to DNA mutation, chromosomal defects, and development of cancer.
UV radiation is considered the main cause of non-melanoma cancers (NMSC), includingsquamous cell carcinoma (SCC), andbasal cell carcinoma (BSC). According to American Academy of Dermatology, increasing intermittent sun exposure in childhood and during one’s lifetime is associated with an increased risk of squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. More than 4 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Statistics show that ‘about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.’
The annual cost of treating skin cancers in the U.S. is estimated at $8.1 billion: about $4.8 billion for non-melanoma skin cancers and $3.3 billion for melanoma.’
- Hats and Sunglasses: Broad-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses help shield the sensitive skin of the head, neck, and around the eyes therefore preventing the dangerous effect of the sun rays.
- To avoid UV radiation harmful damage, protect yourself both indoors and outdoors, always seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun rays are intense.
- Dress to limit UV exposure when stepping outdoors. Special sun-protective clothes can be worn especially the ones with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) which indicate how much UV radiation can penetrate the fabric. This means that the higher the UPF, the better. A shirt with an UPF of 20, for example, simply means that just 1/20th of the sun's UV radiation can reach the skin. This greatly reduce the effects of harmful sun rays on the skin. Choosing the right color of fabric, such as bright, lustrous clothes; reflect more UV radiation than pastels and bleached cottons. Tightly woven but loose-fitting clothes are also effective.
- A visit to your dermatologist at least once in a year for a professional checkup of your skin, is very important in avoiding the harm caused by sunrays.
- It is also advisable to personally examine your skin head-to-toe monthly for easy detection of any skin cancer, or any other form of skin damage.
- Newborns should be kept out of the sun while sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months as directed on the DFL (Drug Facts Label).
- Sunscreens have been one of the most prominent OTC remedies used in the prevention and treatment of harmful UV radiation. They are however being regulated by the FDA ̶ and they must pass certain tests before they are being sold to the general public.Sun protection factor, or SPF indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without the product. For instance, someone using a sunscreen with an SPF of 20 will take 20 times longer to redden the skin than without the sunscreen. An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93% of the sun's UVB rays while SPF 30 protects against 97% and SPF 50 protects against 98% of the sunray damage. Note that the higher the SPF, the smaller the increased benefit; contrary to your opinion, there is only a marginal advantage, the SPF 30 doesn’t indicate that it’s strength doubles that of SPF 15. The Skin Cancer Foundation maintains that, ‘SPFs of 15 or higher are necessary for adequate protection.’
- To make sure you're getting effective UVA as well as UVB coverage, go for sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, which has some combination of the following UVA-screening ingredients such as stabilized avobenzone, ecamsule (Mexoryl SX), oxybenzone, titanium dioxide, and zinc oxide.
According to Dr. Omar Ibrahimi of the Connecticut Skin Institute, “Most people do not apply sufficient amounts of sunscreen to achieve the advertised amount of sun protection.” Two tablespoons or 1 ounce of sunscreen should be applied to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside, and this should be reapplied every two hours, as needed, or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside. This allows the sunscreen (of SPF 15 or higher) to have enough time to provide the maximum benefit.
- The sunscreen should be applied in amount that is enough to cover your entire face and body (avoiding the eyes and mouth). An average-sized adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen to evenly cover the body from head to toe.
- Currently, 17 active ingredients have been approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens which are divided into physical and chemical filters.
Physical filters: are insoluble particles that reflect UV away from the skin. They mostly absorb in the UVB spectrum and reflect in the long UVA (above 360 nm) spectrum. (It offers good protection for sensitive skin).
Chemical filters: they form a thin protective film which covers the surface of the skin, forming a protective film, thereby absorbing the UV radiation before it penetrates the skin, and convert them to heat energy. If you go chemical with your sunscreen, make sure it has avobenzone, or mexoryl. If it doesn’t, it won’t protect you from UVA rays.
Active Ingredient| UV rays it filters:
Titanium Dioxide| UVB, UVA2,
Zinc Oxide| UVB, UVA2, UVA1
Para Aminobenzoic acid (PABA)| UVB
Dioxybenzone| UVB, UVA2
Ecamsule (Mexoryl SX)| UVA2
Ensulizole (Phenylbenzimiazole Sulfonic Acid)| UVB
Meradimate (Menthyl Anthranilate)| UVA2
Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate)| UVB
Octisalate (Octyl Salicylate)| UVB
Oxybenzone| UVB, UVA2
Sulisobenzone| UVB, UVA2
Trolamine Salicylate| UVB
- Any sunscreen product that contains any of these chemicals/ingredients can be considered a product of choice for you. Sunscreens work in two ways. Some work by scattering the light, reflecting it away from your body, while others absorb the UV rays before they reach your skin. Some sunscreens however are labelled “water resistant,” they are required to be tested according to the SPF test procedure. These labels are required to state whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes when swimming or sweating. ALL sunscreens must provide directions on when to reapply.
“For most people, trying to compare one sunscreen to another can be complicated,” says David J. Leffell, MD, professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn. A good understanding of your skin is very important to choosing you perfect OTC product. For example, a fair-skinned person is likely to absorb more solar energy than a dark-skinned person under the same condition, therefore, a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a higher SPF value >15 is advisable.
Sunscreen comes in different dosage forms, including; Creams, lotions, oils, gels, sticks, butters, pastes, sprays etc.
- An example is; Cerave Sunscreen Body Lotion (SPF 50), containing zinc oxide and it has been found to be effective in protecting your skin, as a result of some properties that makes it worth trying, ranging from its broad-spectrum activity, to its lightweight sun protection (that guarantees that it wouldn’t clog your skin pores), plus vital ceramides that healthy skin needs to help restore and maintain its natural protective barrier.
- Another example is; Alba Botanica Very Emollient Mineral Sunscreen (SPF 30).It has two active ingredients — zinc oxide (14.5%) and titanium dioxide (2%) which are both classic ingredients that block UVA radiation, combined with great moisturizers, e.g. jojoba, shea butter etc.
- Another very good product is; Badger’s Lavender Sunscreen Cream (SPF 30), containing 18.75 % zinc oxide. It’s also a great choice for those with sensitive skin because of its limited ingredients—sunflower seed oil, beeswax, lavender oil, tocopherol (vitamin E), and sea buckthorn fruit extract.
- Also, MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème Broad Spectrum Sunscreen (SPF 50) is very good for your face. Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream (SPF 35) is also a very effective remedy, especially before a sporting activity.
Note that, FDA has not authorized the marketing of Over-The-Counter sunscreen products in the form of powders, body washes, wipes, or shampoos. It is important to know that not all sunscreen products are broad spectrum and these types only help to prevent sunburn, not early skin aging or skin cancer. It is then crucial to read the label on any sunscreen product before buying it or at least, before making use of it.
Although, FDA has authorized some ingredients for sunscreen production, such as, oxybenzone, and retinyl palmitate. Recently, Oxybenzone in particular has been reported to cause a high enough rate of allergic reactions. TheEnvironmental Working Group (EWG) has also reported that it can disrupt estrogen levels in the body, and has been linked to endometriosis in women.
Retinyl palmitate (also known as Vitamin A palmitate) is known for itsantioxidant qualities, not everyone agrees that you should combine it with sun exposure. According to a 2012 report from the governmentalNational Toxicology Program, retinyl palmitate may actually speed the development of malignant cells when applied right before going out in the sun. But, that study examined only retinyl palmitate, not retinyl palmitatein sunscreen, so it is not an established fact, but to stay on the safer side, we can recommend that you avoid such products for now.
- Many otherOver the Counter (OTC remedies) are effective for protecting and treating the harmful effects of sunrays. Examples include; Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (motrin), acetaminophen (tynelol), naproxen(naprosyn), or topical diclofenac 0.1% gel can be applied on the reddened skin to reduce redness, pain or discomfort. It should be applied before or immediately after exposure.
- Topical anesthetics such as benzocaine, 1% hydrocortisone cream, may help to alleviate the painful symptoms of sunburn including pain, itching and reduce inflammation. Also, soothing lotions that contain aloe vera, chamomile can be applied to sunburned area.
- Frequent shower or baths can be taken and topical OTC moisturizer creams can be applied on the skin to alleviate the sunburn itch if applied immediately after bath or shower, and to keep the skin hydrated.
Why your OTC sunscreen spray or powder is not advisable?
Sunscreen needs to be rubbed into the skin thoroughly, without missing any spots, and spray sunscreens are the worst in this respect. People spray it on their bodies not noticing half of the spray is going everywhere else but on their skin,” says Dr. Lawrence Green, a board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at George Washington University. Sprays and powders are a little too easy to accidentally putin your body instead of ‘on it.’ The risk of inhalation comes largely with sunscreen powders. An ingredient might be safe to put on your skin but cannot be tolerated or poisonous to your lungs. Even two of the safest ingredients commonly found in sunscreen — titanium dioxide and zinc oxide — were noted by theCenter for Disease Control and theNational Institutes of Health as inhalation risks.
Always protect yourself from sunrays! It cannot be easier, because there are tons of OTC remedies you can choose from. The task now is; “CHOOSE WISELY.”
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