How little do we know about protecting our skin from harmful effects of Ultra-Violet (UV) rays from the sun, especially during summer. At least for men like me, who hardly give a damn, the knowledge regarding skin protection from sun is really very poor.
If you are sitting in an air-conditioned office all the time and if you have to move out for field visits during summer or when you are out in the sun for prolonged period of time, only at such times you may feel the sun is actually doing some bad to you and you really should do something about it. During one of my field visits recently where the temp was more than 40 deg during working hours I had the similar feelings and thought I should really do something about it.
At such time it’s best to have some knowledge on how to protect the skin from sun and what UV rays can do to your body. Most women do take good care when it comes to protection form the sun but most men hardly seem to care. It should be understood that UV rays are not going to act differently for men and it’s best for them to know about protecting the skin from harmful effects of UV rays.
What are UV rays & what do they do to your body?
The sun gives out different type of radiation – visible light that we can see, infrared radiation that we feel as heat and UV radiation that we cannot see or feel and this is what does the damage
There are 3 types of radiation:
- UVA : This can cause sunburn, DNA (cell) damage and skin cancer
- UVB : This can cause skin damage and skin cancer
- UVC : It’s the most dangerous one and thanks to our ozone layer which absorbs it completely preventing it from reaching earth’s surface.
As per studies about 80 percent of UV rays can pass through the clouds and also gets reflected from the snow. Even if you are indoors you are not free from UV rays as window panes can block UVB rays but cannot stop UVA rays that can cause you harm. UVA radiation damages DNA of the human melanocyte cells, causing mutations that can cause melanoma (skin cancer). From 1973 to 2003, the incidence of melanoma, rose by 81% and it’s constantly on the rise.
What should I do protect my skin from harmful effects of UV rays?
The best thing that you can do is staying away from direct sunlight. Though this can seem to be next to impossible but there cannot be anything better than no UV rays coming in contact with your skin. From 10 am to 4 pm, maximum amount of UV rays are given out. Oh no, you don’t have to stay locked up in darkness, that’s the last thing you would want to do to yourself. Just having some awareness and taking some extra care is more than enough.
Your clothes are your second skin and it’s really important that you have proper clothing when you are out in the sun. Covering up your hands, legs, feet, head and face is very important for protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. The fabric which you are wearing also has to be right for the weather and provide you protection. You may feel cooler in a white shirt, but if the sun light is able to pass through the fabric then probably the UV rays are passing too. So at least light-colored shirts or tees in a hot weather through which minimum light can pass should be perfect.
Proper wash care of clothes ensures that the fabric stays in a good shape to offer UV protection. Sun exposure can make the color go dull and the fabric to soften which can allow more UV rays to pass. There are some great stuff available in the market which can avoid such damage to your clothes.
Men, it’s no big deal in slopping on some sunscreen before you head out in the sun, it will definitely do something good for you. Ok, I know what you are thinking, so let’s understand how sunscreen works. Sunscreens are available in many forms like creams, lotions, ointments, gels, sprays, etc. which help you to protect your skin from harmful effects of UV rays. When you are buying such a thing make sure that you check out the label which will have information on the sun protection factor (SPF) that thing has.
Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB and with SPF of more than 30 do a pretty good job. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays – the higher the number more the protection provided by the sunscreen. If you are applying SPF 30 sunscreen then for every 30 mins that you are exposed to the sun you are bound to get 1 min of UVB rays. So for an hour out in the sun you are bound to receive 2 mins of UVB rays. So make sure you apply enough sunscreen and not just one drop for your entire face.
Higher the SPF number higher is the protection. SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, SPF 50 sunscreens filter 98% and SPF 100 about 99%. It should be kept in mind that no sunscreen will provide complete protection and they should be re-applied for maximum protection.
Sunglasses not only helps to give you a cooler look and protection from sun, but also absorbs 99% to 100% of UV rays. Before you buy, make sure the label mentions the details regarding UV protection offered by it. If there is no label or the label doesn’t mention anything about UV protection then don’t just assume that it may provide UV protection. Most brands do mention the UV protection offered by their sunglasses.
It doesn’t matter how darker or lighter the shades of the sunglasses are as the UV protection comes form a colorless chemical which is coated over the sunglasses. If your job requires you to stay out in the sun for a longer period of time then better go for larger shades as they cover your eyes as well as the sensitive skin around your eyes.
If you are wearing prescription glasses or contacts, then also there is no need to worry as they too provide UV protection provided the UV protective chemical is coated over them. Make sure you discuss this point with your ophthalmologist while giving order for your spectacles.
Wear a Hat
I know many of you are not really into hats and will prefer some fancy caps to hats. But caps do not protect areas like your ears and your neck. The skin on the neck is comparatively thinner and may absorb more harmful UV rays. A hat with a good 2 to 3 inch brim all around can offer better UV protection than a cap and who knows, you actually might look more cooler in a hat ! It’s just a matter of giving it one good try. There are a lot of cool hats available for men as well as women, so go out and try a different look this time and keep UV rays at bay.
Now that you know how making these small changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference make sure you teach your children too about UV care. Kids will never care for such things and will happily play in the sun for hours and can also spend long hours on the beach. The skin of the children is more soft and sensitive and is more prone to damage, so it’s really important that they are taken good care off, especially in the areas where cases of skin cancer are on the rise.
So gear yourself up to protect your skin from harmful effects of UV rays, be it any weather UV rays are always around and your awareness and action will definitely make a huge difference.