Did you know 80 percent of wrinkles and other sun-caused skin aging is due to UV radiation? Source: Shutterstock
ALMOST everyone knows the sun is dangerous, but many people don’t understand why.
While the sun does have some health benefits, such as omitting high quantities of vitamin D, too much of it can be detrimental to our health.
Even though the flaming ball of gas is 150 million kilometers from Earth, it still managed to burn Icarus’ wings off, and it’ll do a whole lot more damage than that if you stay out in it for too long without protection.
Because global warming is taking effect on Earth at unprecedented rates, the sun is becoming more intense.
Rising temperatures caused by climate change are leading to more heatwaves – and extreme ones at that.
“Extreme heat can overpower the human body and cause dehydration, heatstroke and major organ damage,” explained The Climate Change Project.
That’s heat, but what is so bad about the actual sun? Two words: ultraviolet radiation (UV).
UV comprises of two types of radiation, long wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short wave ultraviolet B (UVB).
These invisible rays are so harmful, they’ve been classified by the US government as a carcinogen, a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
Despite health warnings and constant research being carried out to prevent and treat skin cancer, cases of melanoma (dangerous skin cancer) have risen 53 percent in the last decade, resulting in it becoming the most diagnosed cancer in the US.
This increase translates to an average of two people dying every hour around the world from melanoma.
According to SkinCancer.org, 90 percent of all melanoma is caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun.
But don’t be thinking it takes a lifetime of sun-worshipping to get this wretched disease because getting just one severe sunburn or five minor sunburns in a lifetime can double your chances of getting skin cancer.
So, however funny someone’s sunburn patterns may be, it’s no laughing matter.
Source: Marc Babin/Unsplash
Aside from increasing your chances of getting cancer, too much sun exposure is also incredibly damaging for your eyes.
UV exposure is more likely to affect people with light-colored irides (the colorful part of the eye).
But the sun doesn’t discriminate and can cause cataracts (clouding over the eye lens) and lead to melanoma of the eye in the long run.
But if you’ve ever found yourself itching your sore eyes after a day in the sun, it’s most probably because you’ve got photokeratitis. This is sunburn of the eyes which causes the cornea to burn and become inflamed.
Source: Social Cut/Unsplash
Then comes the most oxymoronic condition of all – premature aging.
Given that most people lay in the sun to improve their short-term appearance, it seems silly then that too much sun exposure will cause you to look older than you are.
According to a study conducted by L’Oreal, 80.3 percent of wrinkles and other sun-caused skin aging is due to UV radiation.
UV radiation causes collagen and elastin fibers to break down quicker.
This means your skin won’t retain that “snap back” characteristic that keeps you looking youthful. Combine this damage with gravity, and you’ll end up looking saggy and wrinkly before your time.
Although, aesthetic-damaging consequences are futile compared to the ones that kill you.
Source: Christopher Oshana/Unsplash
How can you protect yourself from the sun?
Start by ditching the harmful tanning oil and get to know your sun lotions.
Suncream, sunscreen, and sunblock aren’t just variants of the same thing. They protect against the different types of radiation.
The “A” in UVA stands for aging and traditionally, sunscreens protect you from these.
The “B” in UVB stands for burning and sunblocks are formulated to protect against these.
But thanks to modern chemistry, there are loads of products on the market which combine both types of protection.
Look for products that contain octyl methoxycinnamate, octyl salicylate, and octocrylene as they reflect the sun’s radiation.
Products with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide also prevent the sun from penetrating the skin’s dermal layer.
How often should you apply sun lotion?
Contrary to popular belief, lathering it on won’t give you more protection. Instead, apply it 30 minutes before going into the sun, so it’s fully absorbed.
When it comes to reapplying, remember this formula: SPF Number x Time to Burn without Protection = Time to Burn with Protection.
For example: SPF 15 x 10 minutes = 150 minutes of protection.
The sun is strongest between 10am and 2pm, so it’s advisable not to sit out between these times.
Also, take extra caution when you’re near water, snow, and sand because the UV radiation reflects off them and can increase your chance of sunburn.
There’s no need to be afraid of the sun, but it’s essential you protect yourself against it.
If you suspect you’ve caused damage to your skin through sun exposure, then you’ll need to watch out for growing moles that change color or itch.
Contact your doctor if you’re concerned and stay out of the sun until you get the all clear.
Holly Patrick | @HollyMaeVogel
As a recent graduate of Journalism from Westminster University, Holly is keen on exploring the stories that hide in the most curious of places. She enjoys discovering new cultures, and has strong opinions about women's rights and how modern technology is influencing the globalized world. She also has a healthy inquisitiveness to find stimulating content… and the best pad thai in town.