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How your skin can survive summers

Summer is hot but a beautiful season. Everything is fresh and bright. There is no reason to spoil it by using unnatural synthetic fibers that stick to your body and don’t allow your skin to breathe. Instead stick to  natural fibers like cotton and linen.

Exposure to the sun is known to cause premature wrinkling and fine lines so you must slather on your sunscreens. During summer we cannot escape the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Some people stop going out in sun, which is a wrong convention because lack of sunlight can cause significant health problems too.

Sunlight, in reasonable doses, improves natural immunity, promotes skin growth and healing, and stimulates hormone production. Spending 20-30 minutes in full sunlight without any protection three times a week will allow the body to manufacture vitamin D naturally, which is required for the health of bones. The trouble begins when excessive exposure allows more of the harmful UV, UVB and UVC. UVA rays, referred to as silent killers, cause immediate darkening of the skin, penetrate further and destroy the collagen matrix, may play an addictive role in assisting UVB in causing sun burns and ageing.

UVB rays which are called burning rays target the upper layer of skin, and actually break down DNA, producing carcinogenesis. UVC rays from sun are absorbed by the ozone layer in the atmosphere and thus do not reach the earth surface. This radiation kills bacteria and can cause mild sunburn. It is used in operating rooms germicidal lamps.  Thus UVC rays are considered the most dangerous by causing damage within the short span of exposure.

About two thirds of the daily ultra violet radiation reach earth between 10am and 2pm. Mid day UVR are 10% UVB and UVA are 90%. Cloud cover can reduce the total amount of radiation by 50%, but UVL penetrates through water. UV radiation intensity increases 4-5% for every 1000 feet above sea level. Snow and ice reflect 80% of the radiation, while sand reflects 70% and grass 2.5%. Window glass blocks UV radiation of UVB type. Tinted windows can offer increased protection against UVA. Repeated exposure of unprotected skin while tanning may increase the risk of  ageing, skin cancer and other harmful effects without even knowing. UVL is responsible for the development of at least 10% of the cataracts and macular degeration.

Our bodies are sheathed by three distinct layers of skin i.e., the subcutaneous tissue, the dermis and the epidermis. The job of the stratumcorneum is to protect the underlying layers of skin from dehydration. And provide energy and insulation. The dermis is the tough middle layer that consists mostly of connective tissue. The outermost layer, the epidermis, has six sublayers, which manufacture lipids, fatty substances that hydrate corneum. The epidermis is composed of dead cells (called squamae) and keratin. Combined, these two outermost layers of skin give our skin strength and make our skin water resistant. They are also the layers susceptible to the damaging effects of sunburn.

Here the question arises what to do in order to protect skin from UV rays? There are a number of sunscreen/sunblock creams and lotions available in the market for different skin types with different SPF(Sun Protection Factor). There is a difference between sunblocks and sunscreens. Sunblocks contain mineral salts, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to scatter the sunrays reflecting them from your vunerable skin. Sunscreens, on the other hand allow the absorption of a minimal amount of UV rays. Filtering them into harmless infrared wavelengths. Select sunblock with SPF 15-30. Apply the product 20-30 minutes prior to exposure to the sun and allow drying. Reapply after every 3 hours when out in the sun.

Not every sunblock/sunscreen cream is good for you. First you have to determine what kind of skin type you have and then what level of SPF your skin needs. SPF level may vary in different cities according to the climate. SPF indicates how long you will be protected from the UV rays, based on how fast you tend to sunburn. For example, if you usually begin to show signs of sunburn without protection within 15 minutes at mid-day then a product with an SPF of 15 will protect you for 225 minutes (15x15), or 3 hours and 45 minutes. After that length of time, your sunscreen will cease to be effective and you will be in need of reapplying the sunscreen.

Nearly 70 percent of all UV exposure stems from daily activites such as walking, jogging, driving etc. Avoid going out in the sun without any protection. Lightweight and light colored clothing combined with plenty of sunscreen protection on exposed and unexposed skin is a good way to protect youself. If overheating is not a concern then dark colored, tightly woven clothing is more effective at blocking UV rays. Light colored clothing lets the sun and UV rays reach the skin more easily.

Another barrier against sun damage comes in the from of eyewear. Protect not only your eyes, but also the skin around them by wearing sunglasses that block 90 percent to 100 percent of the suns UV rays.

Always wear a hat. Though a cap may be more comfortable for jogging but not much useful in protecting your ears from UV rays. Try a wide brimmed hat that will shade your neck, face and ears while gardening or walking outside.

The next step is to drink plenty of water. Outdoor play or exercise especially in the summers increases risk of dehydration. This is one risk you don’t want to take since it not only affects your performance and vitality, but also may be potentially hazardous to your health. Be sure to drink fluids before, during and after physical activity.

Skin darkening is a very common problem faced in the summers. You become dark due to a number of reasons such as bruising, suntans, taking certain foods, medications, or because of diseases such as Addison’s scleroderma or exposure to sunrays. You need to cover parts of your body such as your hands by wearing long sleeves or gloves.

Excessive sweat and oils clog pores so use a cooling cleanser containing salicylic acid to keep skin blemishes under control. Cleansers made with eucalyptus or menthol extracts feel good and help keep pores clean and open.

Change your moisturizing products because skin does not need as much moisturizing protection during summers as it does during winters.

Swimming is a joyful activity in summers, but you need to be careful, always rinse your body with cool water after swimming to remove chlorine and salt. Reapply sunscreen after swimming.

A very common body part, which is ignored by many, is the lip area. The lip is a common site for cancer. Extended sun exposure causes the lips to crack, peel and get scaly. This may also be a sign of actinic keratoses. This condition can be the earliest stage of the development of skin cancer, and has the potential to progress to deadlier forms of the disease. People either forget to put sunscreen or balm on the lips or lick it off.

When the skin receives a lot of exposure to the sun, it may become sun burnt. The skin becomes red and painful and then begins to peel. It is unsightly and can be itchy and painful when the peeling occurs. Severe sunburn may cause swelling and blisters. Sunburn also increases the risk of cancer. Anyone can be vulnerable to skin cancer; the risk is more than 20 times greater among fair-skinned people than those with dark complexions. You may be especially at risk if you work outdoors, regularly engaged in outdoor activities (golfing, swimming, or gardening).

Even when the skin does become sun burnt, it can still be damaged from the sun. Here are some of the ways that UV rays and exposure to the sun can damage your skin: Premature ageing (including wrinkles), damage to the skins collagen, damage to the skin cells, negative effect on the immune system (which may cause skin problems), thinning of the skin (which can increase the likelihood of wrinkles), thinning of the blood vessels which may lead to bruising. The appearance of tiny blood vessels on the skin’s surface, freckles (including large freckles such as age spots or liver sports), white spots on the skin, bumps trigger skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, dryness, redness, itchiness are some of the sensitive skin reactions.

Titanium dioxide containing sunscreens are safe and less likely to irritate the skin. Use of sunscreen during the first 18 years of life would reduce the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancers by 78% over one’s lifetime.


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