I am living on a small, sunny island in Europe and with the beach being across the road, I cannot avoid but see crowds of people every day, doing what normal people do and avoid their sun protection.
I get it, people come here on a holiday and going back home without a tan is a no-no. *sighs*
So during the month of May, which is skin cancer awareness month, I would like to point out five ways to protect yourself from UV damage which will actively reduce your chances of developing skin cancer, if you implement them in your daily routine.
1. Seek shade.
Active overexposure to UV rays is believed to be the dominant external factor in the development of skin cancer. Genetic factors may play a role in this too, therefore if you have a family history of cancer, you should seriously consider reducing direct sun exposure for a long time to a minimum.
Avoid exposing your skin to direct sunlight during midday, when the UV rays are the most intense. This is usually between 11 – 4 pm.
While hiding inside may not be the perfect solution as this may prevent you from being active and in good health, you should plan your schedule to avoid outdoor activities during these hours.
Besides this, a less known fact is that sand, as well as snow, reflect sunlight, so if you are at the beach or a ski resort, you are bombarded by direct sunlight from every direction.
The reason I’m saying “a less known fact” because I wasn’t aware of it, until recently. But they say every day is a school.
2. Wear protective clothing.
When out and about in the sun, try to keep your skin covered.
Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Long sleeves and pants will significantly strengthen your sun protection.
Dark colors generally provide great protection compared to light colors and tight fabric protects better than a loose one.
I know that this doesn’t work well especially if getting a tan is what made you go out and lay on the beach all day in the first place.
All I’m saying is that you should consider protecting your skin from the sun a number one priority while enjoying the therapeutic benefits of relaxing on a sandy beach.
3. Wear a hat.
Wearing a large-brimmed hat while moving under the scorching summer heat is also preferable. It will guard your cheeks and the delicate, thin skin on your neck from burning and prolonged sun damage.
We all know that 80% of premature ageing is due to the sun, and although the UVB rays are primarily responsible for the unbearably uncomfortable and nearly as much painful burning, the UVA rays are absorbed deep into the epidermis and are responsible for ageing of the skin because of the damage caused to the collagen and elastin fibers.
4. Wear sunglasses.
Protecting your eyes from sun damage is also important. By wearing sunglasses that block UV rays you are guarding your eyes against some serious sun damage, which will decrease your chances of developing certain eye disorders like cataract which is clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision.
Don’t forget that protecting the most delicate skin around the eyes is important as this area is extremely thin and most prone to premature aging and wrinkles.
Sunglasses with the highest protection should have a UV ray absorption rate of 99%- 100%.
While both plastic and glass lenses absorb some UV light, UV absorption is improved by applying certain chemicals or special coatings to the lenses.
This chemical doesn’t make the shade of the lenses darker. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that darker lenses provide increased protection.
5. Apply A Sunscreen With Broad Spectrum Protection.
Understanding how sunscreens work is important.
Sunscreen is a product that you apply on your skin to protect from the sun’s damaging UV rays. It is important to know that although factors higher than 30 provide the recommended protection, sunscreen should not be used as a way to prolong your time in the sun.
Sunscreen does not block all UV rays and because of this, you shouldn’t completely rely on it while under the impression that you are untouchable because you layered a generous coat of that sweet coconut-scented sunscreen.
What I’m getting at is that although essential, this shouldn’t be your first line of defence.
Consider sunscreen as one simple preventative measure against skin cancer.
Sunscreens are available in many forms from lotions and creams to ointments and gels.
Most cosmetic companies are now producing skincare ranges as well as makeup which provide protection against UV rays and you can find tinted moisturizers, bb creams, foundations, powders, lip balms and even lipsticks that contain high SPF.
In case you find yourself confused about how to recognize which sunscreen is good for you, here’s a helpful guide on how to read sunscreen labels.
I like to call this “spoiled for choice”, and with all that, you hardly have any excuse to give as to why you are not applying sunscreen.
Sunbathing in moderation and with adequate protection is very therapeutic as it promotes relaxation and encourages a feeling of total well being.
However, by implementing these five steps in your daily routine to protect yourself from the dangerously damaging rays will significantly decrease your risk of developing skin cancer and skin damage.
Another way I would like to raise skin cancer awareness is to encourage the reader to get in the habit of having routine examinations by a doctor or regularly check for signs of skin cancer on the body.
I found this article very helpful on how to do so.
Remember that if skin cancer is detected early, then your odds of surviving are increased.