UV Awareness Month and Protecting Your Skin

UV Awareness Month and Protecting Your Skin

July is a prime month for sunburns, but protecting your skin from sun damage is a year-round task. No matter where you live, putting sunscreen on before you head out the door is just as important in the summer as it is in the wintertime. With July marked as National UV Awareness Month, this is a great opportunity to educate patients (and yourself) about protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

Skin protection doesn’t mean the end of beach days, but it does call for extra attention and a little planning. The American Academy of Dermatology Association raises awareness about this campaign each year and offers lots of resources and tips for folks who are interested in how to easily incorporate sun protection into their routines.

Many people realize that sunscreen is important to bring and use for a day spent outside, but the regular sunscreen habit is important for a few reasons. Making sunscreen a habit means you’ll protect your skin from damaging UV rays every day, not just when you’ll be outside for an extended time. And that makes a big difference over the course of your lifetime because all those smaller days without protection quickly add up with the minutes you’ll spend walking the dog, running errands, gardening, or sitting by a sunny window.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the color of your skin makes no difference in the need to protect yourself from UV rays. Sun protection is essential to keep both cosmetic issues like wrinkles or premature aging and serious threats to health like skin cancer at bay. For people of color, the very darkest skin tones may offer some minor sun protection, but nothing that would offer the safety that sunscreen will. Companies are beginning to recognize how important it is to offer sunscreen that will work with different skin tones.

Sun protection also comes in other forms. You can wear hats with a wide brim to protect your face, ears, and neck, but even a baseball cap can help (just be sure to put sunscreen on the skin that’s not covered–particularly the tops of your ears and your neck). Tightly woven clothing can also offer protection that rivals an SPF (but a regular t-shirt offers only about the equivalent of an XXX SPF). Swim shirts and shorts are excellent for when you’re spending time in the water and won’t be able to reapply sunscreen frequently.

Of course, the earlier you start protecting your skin, the better. Many adults who have spotty or little history of using sun protection can take important steps now. Visiting a dermatologist every year for a full-body skin check will allow your team to spot any concerning changes in your skin. They should check every area of skin–from your scalp to between your toes–because melanoma, the most deadly skin cancer, can appear in areas that have never been exposed to the sun.

Between visits, keep an eye on your skin and don’t second guess new moles or areas that seem itchy, are bleeding, or look like a pimple that won’t go away. Those concerning areas need to be checked to rule out anything serious or to develop a treatment plan for something that is, or has the potential to be, cancerous.

Sun Safety and Protecting Yourself

Sun Safety and Protecting Yourself

There’s lots of summer left, but you don’t want to let your guard down on sun safety. The summer months are often a time to catch up on time outdoors, but you want to ensure you keep yourself as protected as possible from damaging UV rays.

While many people correctly associate sun safety with their skin and avoiding sunburns, there are also other protections you need to take from these invisible and damaging rays.

According to the American Cancer Society, UV radiation can come from many sources including the sun, inside lighting, and equipment like welding torches and tanning beds. UV rays are divided into UVA, UVB, and UVC and overexposure to any of them can be harmful.

Keep these protections in mind this summer and share UV safety tips with your patients, too.

Your Skin

UV rays, from natural or manmade sources, cause skin damage, no matter what the color of your skin is. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, with repeated and unprotected exposure UV radiation causes skin damage. That skin damage can lead to wrinkles (primarily from UVA) and dark or light pigmentation changes at best and skin cancer (generally from UVB) at worst. Natural UVC rays from the sun don’t usually reach the ground but are more of a threat from some equipment (welding torches and some sanitizing bulbs). Protecting yourself with sunscreen is an easy way to guard your skin from those harmful rays while still getting to enjoy time outside.

Your Eyes

Most people don’t associate eye problems with UV rays. According to the American Optometric Association, protecting your eyes from UV exposure from indoor and outdoor sources is essential. Over time, exposure can lead to problems like cataracts, eye cancer, or macular degeneration. Proper eye protection includes consistent use of sunglasses or eye gear that block all UV rays.

Your Immune System

Many people associate sunlight with health and growth and will forgo sun protection thinking they are making themselves healthier. And while there are benefits to getting some sunlight, such as production of Vitamin D, UV overexposure can impact some people in a decidedly unhealthy way. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), too much UV exposure can actually suppress the immune system. If your immune system is suppressed at all, it makes  it harder for your body to fight off infections.

Stay Protected

Protecting yourself from UV exposure takes some vigilance but can become a habit over time. Wear sun protection in the form that works best for you. Whether you choose sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, or clothing with UV protection, guarding your skin and eyes from the sun’s rays outside is simple. If UV radiation exposure happens inside, take proper precautions with the right equipment. Avoid tanning beds and get regular skin checks by a dermatologist.

Be aware of any medication that could impact how your body reacts to UV exposure (some antibiotics, for example, increase your chances of sunburn). The EPA offers an easy-to-use UV Index that tells you the daily UV risk depending on your zip code.

Awareness about UV radiation is the first step to protecting yourself.