Sun and Skin Part One: Overview

An effective sunscreen is the best way to maintain a youthful appearance, prevent immunosuppression, and avoid skin cancer. Though it was once believed that UVB radiation was the only wavelength harmful to the skin, evidence now suggests that the UVA radiation is more significant when discussing long-term effects on the skin. For full protect against the sun and to preserve healthy skin, it is important to choose a sunscreen that protects against a broad range of the light spectrum, including both UVA and UVB radiation. Relying on SPF, which measures protection against UVB and sunburn, is simply not sufficient when it comes to combating the full range the sun’s effects on the skin.

To be effective, sunscreen must also be used consistently. UVA radiation is not filtered by window glass and is relatively unaffected by altitude or atmospheric conditions.  Nearly twenty times more UVA reaches Earth’s atmosphere than UVB, and UVA penetrates deep into the dermis of the skin, where UVB does not reach. Unlike UVB radiation, UVA radiation is the same all day long and all year long.  Because UVA radiation is so consistent throughout the day, it is important to use an effective sunscreen everyday.

The Facts of Light:

* The skin is the largest organ in the human body.

* Normal, healthy skin acts as a barrier and protects us from injury. It regulates our temperature, receives sensory impulses and synthesizes Vitamin D.

* Not all skin is the same. Different skin types respond differently to sunlight. Know your skin type and determine your vulnerability.

* Sun damage to the skin is cumulative.

* A suntan is a sign of skin damage.

* Any level of tanning indicates photo-damage that can lead to wrinkling, aging and skin cancer.

* Up to 90 percent of the visible changes commonly attributed to aging are caused by the sun.

* Skin has a memory of all previous sun damage, resulting in greater susceptibility to skin cancer.

* More than 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers occur in fair skinned people who tend to burn.

* Dark skinned people, as well as fair skinned people, need to practice sun protection. While the incidence of skin cancer is lower among dark skinned people, they are susceptible to damaging from UV radiation, especially to the effects on the eyes

* Sun Protection needs to be a lifelong commitment. A popular misconception holds that 80% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs before age 18; in reality the figure closer to 23% When discussing the sun’s effect on your skin, there are three main aspects to consider:

1. Cosmetic Appearance – Light damage accounts for 90% of wrinkles, pigmentation changes and signs of aging, making it a primary determinant of our skin’s cosmetic appearance.

2. Immune Response - Skin is our largest immune system response organ, and light effects the way it functions.

3. Skin Cancer Risk - Sun exposure puts us at increased risk for skin cancer and its potential life threatening effects.

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