CALS Wellness Committee tip: How to protect your skin from the sun

Summer is the time for fun in the sun! While we enjoy time outdoors, it is important to take care of our skin and protect it from UV rays. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, two types of UV light are proven to contribute to the risk for skin cancer:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) has a longer wavelength. It is associated with skin aging.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB) has a shorter wavelength. It is associated with skin burning.

While UVA and UVB rays differ in how they affect the skin, they both do harm. Unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB damages the DNA in skin cells, producing genetic defects, or mutations, that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. UV rays can also cause eye damage, including cataracts and eyelid cancers.

Not taking proper precautions to avoid sunburn can add up over the years and increase risk for skin cancer. UW Health dermatologist Apple Bodemer says, “five or more blistering burns before the age of 20 increases the risk of melanoma by 80% and non-melanoma skin cancer by 68%.”

So, how do we protect our skin from UV light and still enjoy the outdoors?

Bodemer provides the following suggestions for how to protect your skin while still getting to enjoy the outdoors:

  • Avoid midday sun (between 12-3 p.m.). This is when UV rays are most intense.
  • Seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, including UPF rated clothing, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses.
  • Wear broad spectrum sunscreen. Reapply often.
  • Eat a lot of fruits and veggies. These contain an abundance to phytonutrients including antioxidants that can help the body repair UV radiation-induced DNA damage.

Understanding the risks associated with sunburn is crucial. It is important to educate yourself as well as those around you. And don’t forget to carry your sunscreen!