With summer in full swing, many people will be flooding to the beaches to relax by the ocean. Although the sun’s rays on your skin trigger the release of endorphins to brighten your mood, those same UV rays can cause serious damage as they deliver potent energy into the skin.
Within 30 minutes, the melanocytes or pigment producing cells are beginning to self-destruct. The immune system sends in a brigade to help, and your blood vessels expand causing inflammation. Even if you applied sunscreen, the melanocytes are still producing a substance called melanin. Melanin causes the skin to tan, acting as a self-defense shield to prevent further damage. If you are fair-skinned, this process quickly progresses to inflammation and sunburn or even blisters if the skin is unprotected. If you are not wearing sunglasses, the damaging UV rays can even affect your lenses and corneas.
As the lazy day goes on, you might decide to take a dip in the ocean. Soon, the natural oils in your skin are stripped off by the salt water along with your sunscreen. The sun’s UV rays give your hair that beachy look, but those same rays are damaging keratin, the protein that keeps your hair strong and shiny. The UV rays zap collagen and elastin, the firm connective tissue which promotes healthy, youthful skin. (Over time, the skin begins to sag, loses its elasticity and wrinkles appear).
The following day, your blood vessels may still be dilated, and in some cases, you might experience painful sunburn. Since your immune system is suppressed, and if you are prone to cold sores, they are likely to appear at this time.
What’s the bottom line? How can you enjoy a day at the beach safely?
Wear sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher. If you’re wearing SPF 30, it means you can stay out 30 times longer with sunscreen than without. Imagine that your skin normally begins to burn after 10 minutes of full sun without any protection. A sunscreen with 30 SPF provides 30 times the protection of no sunscreen, or in this case, 300 minutes (5 hours). You should purchase sunscreen that is broad spectrum and contains micronized zinc and titanium dioxide which are physical blocks that protect against UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays). Be sure to reapply liberally and often, especially if you go into the water.
Avoid being in the sun in the middle of the day. You’re going to get maximum exposure to the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. If you are out during this time of day, try to find a shady spot or pack an umbrella, and wear sunscreen.
Wearing protective clothing is very important. Now it is easier to find fashionable sun shirts and rash guards. The more clothes you wear, the more your skin is protected. Wear light colored clothing rather than dark colors which absorb more UV light and heat. Be sure to also wear a hat and sunglasses.
Treat sunburn. Apply a soothing agent such as aloe, and moisturize you skin often. Feeling feverish, cold, or confused are signs of a severe form of sunburn. If this happens, immediately seek medical attention.
Tanning beds are not safe. Enough said.
Remember, you CAN enjoy your day at the beach and have a good time. You just want to do it in a way to protect yourself from the damage caused by the sun.