The best souvenir of your trip to the Jersey shore is your deep, dark tan, right? It may be a souvenir that comes back to haunt you.
Baking yourself in the sun without protection for hours every day of your New Jersey vacation is going to leave you sunburned. Your skin will be red and tender to the touch. You may even run a low fever! And if the burn is really bad, your skin may blister and peel.
Sun lovers, it’s time to talk safety. You can enjoy the rays without wrecking your skin! Here’s how.
First things first: what do sunscreen ratings mean? SPF stands for “sun protection factor”. Higher numbers equal more protection — but a higher number doesn’t mean you can go longer before reapplying. Most skin care experts suggest using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher for the best protection from harmful sun rays.
Did you know that there are different kinds of light? Ultraviolet light is divided into three different types: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC light is actually the most dangerous kind of light, but it is largely absorbed by gasses in the atmosphere before reaching the ground (and your skin).
However, UVA and UVB lights can pass right through the atmosphere — even on a cloudy day. Sunscreens are great at protecting your skin from UVB rays. Scientists aren’t so sure that sunscreens are great at protecting your skin against UVA light.
UV exposure is to blame for many forms of skin cancer, including approximately 65% of melanomas. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the death rate from melanoma has been increasing by about four percent each year in the United States since 1973. Ultraviolet light has also been linked with basal and squamous cell carcinoma — two other forms of skin cancer. Protecting your skin with sunscreen today can help prevent cancer in the future.
More bad things that the sun can do to your skin:
- Sunburn can leave free radicals in your system — free radicals have been linked with different types of cancer.
- Too much sun can promote the development of wrinkles, making you look old before your time. Even daily driving can allow sunlight to age your skin. Someone who spends a lot of time in the car will find that the side that faces the window (and direct sunlight) has more wrinkles than the other.
- Sunlight exposure can damage collagen — the protein in your body that helps keep skin plump, smooth, and flexible.
Good things that the sun can do for you:
- Sunlight causes your body to produce vitamin D — a vitamin that is essential for bone growth, among other things. Without enough vitamin D, you may be at risk for osteoporosis.
- A tan can make you feel (and look) good! It is possible to tan safely — without increasing your risk of developing skin cancer later in life.
The American Cancer Society suggests you “Slip, Slop, Slap” to protect yourself: slip on a shirt when you’re sitting in the sun, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat. Here are some more things you can do to ensure safe tanning:
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every two hours. Reapply sunscreen after swimming, if you’re sweating a lot, and after you towel off.
- Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days. Ideally, wear sunscreen EVERY day — not just beach days or during the summer.
- The middle of the day — between 10am and 2pm — is when the sun is most brutal. The atmosphere is absorbing less of the harmful UV rays during this time. Avoid the sun if you can.
- Give your body a break from the sun every once in a while. Sit in the shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat, and cover up for a bit.
- Don’t forget your lips! Look for a lip balm that includes sun protection.
- Don’t forget your eyes! Bright sunlight can be damaging, so don’t forget the sunglasses.
- Make sure your friends and family (especially young children) are protected, too.