“In a thousand years, archaeologists will dig up tanning beds and think we fried people as punishment.”
– Olivia Wilde
When the weather’s nice, it’s only natural to spend more time outdoors. Think about it. Once spring arrives, we spend hours in the garden, and once summer’s here, the season of backyard gatherings and visits to the lake or beach fill our weekly calendars. And that workout routine you spent all winter doing inside moves out into the beauty of nature. We wouldn’t want you to stay inside year-round or miss out on a beautiful garden wedding, so our one and only goal here is to get you to apply your sunscreen diligently because the danger of skin cancer is very real.
Don’t think sun exposure will hurt your skin? Here are some common things we hear…and the reasons why you shouldn’t believe them.
“The Sun Is the Best Source of Vitamin D”
Ask any avid sun worshipper, and you’ll probably hear that the sun is good for you and that your body needs vitamin D. While we do, in fact, need vitamin D, there are healthier ways to get it that won’t damage the skin. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, like dairy and cereal, but you can also get ample quantities from fatty fish, like salmon. Dermatologists will tell you that the number one cause of skin aging is unprotected sun exposure and trying to get your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun simply comes with too many risks.
“I Heard Tanning Beds Are Safe”
Many people are under the mistaken impression that tanning beds are safer than actual sunlight. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Tanning beds emit both UVA and UVB rays. According to Dr. Sarnoff, a clinical dermatology professor, “frequent tanners using high-pressure sunlamps may receive as much as 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from sun exposure.” And if that’s not enough to convince you to forego these devices, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that tanning beds also cause age spots, wrinkles, and can cause “blinding eye diseases, if eye protection is not used.”
Studies show that people who using tanning beds on a regular basis are at much higher risk for melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) and increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
“A Tan Keeps Me From Burning”
Oh, if only this were entirely true. Many people feel that a tan protects them from real sun damage, but recent studies show that although melanin serves a protective function, the body’s melanocytes can be simultaneously damaged by UVA radiation, potentially leading to cancer. It’s best to heed the CDC’s warnings and consider a tan “the body’s response to injury from UV rays.”
Hop on the Sun Protection Bandwagon
Armed with these facts, one thing is clear: skin cancer does not have to be inevitable, but you do need to do your part. Keep this idea in mind: protect what you value … and follow these recommendations from the Skin Cancer Foundation:
- Use SPF15 or higher whenever you’ll be outdoors, even on cloudy days.
- Apply your sunscreen indoors before going outside.
- Use the right amount – two tablespoons should cover your body and face, but you may need more.
- Wear protective clothing and eyewear.
- Never use tanning beds.
- Avoid sun exposure during the most intense hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.).
- Pay attention to your moles and freckles and visit your doctor if anything looks odd or changes during the year.
- Keep your newborns protected and out of the sun.
- Apply sunscreen to your kids after they’re six months old.
- Visit your dermatologist yearly for a full-body skin check.
To protecting yourself from skin damage,
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