The popularity of tanned skin has come and gone throughout the history of fashion. As far back as Ancient Egypt, pale skin was considered the mark of wealth and beauty – too much sun was seen as a sign that someone had to work outdoors to make their living. This opinion carried through all the way through the 19th century, when Victorian ideals about purity and virginity were reflected in the fashion for very pale skin.
However, in the 1920s, the sun gained a whole new appreciation. With fashion icons like Coco Chanel portraying tanned skin as the sign of a well-traveled, high-class life, many people began seeking out the look, spending more time in the sun to achieve bronzed skin. By the time the 1960s rolled around, a tan was synonymous with a healthy, active, exciting life. In the 80s and 90s, the United States was filled with tanning beds, fake tan products and the practice of sunbathing.
Science Reveals the Dangers of Tanning
But we now know that too much exposure to UV rays, from the sun or from tanning beds, can lead to serious health conditions. In addition to life-threatening cancers and immune system disorders, UV light can cause premature aging and damage to a person’s eyesight. And the inevitable sunburn that is caused when a person seeks out a tan is one of the fastest routes to these health conditions.
This has led to a public awareness of the importance of preventing sunburns. In fact, getting more than just five sunburns in your entire life can more than double your chances of developing the skin cancer known as melanoma. And in addition to being harmful to your health, sunburns can be very painful. In addition to a very painful redness, people who get sunburns can develop blisters, headaches, or even dizziness, vomiting, and confusion.
There is no treatment that can go back and undo the effects of a sunburn on overall health; additionally, the treatments that are available to treat the symptoms are mostly for managing the pain, and can’t do much to get rid of the redness. For all of these reasons, it’s important to know how to prevent sunburn. Here are 8 ways that you should be aware of to keep yourself and your family safe.
Let’s talk about sunscreen. There are many myths surrounding sunscreen that don’t make it easy to understand what to buy, how to use it, or how it works. First, SPF does not represent what you may believe. If you think that SPF 30 offers double the protection of SPF 15, you have been misled. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of all UV rays. SPF 30 blocks about 97%, and SPF 45 blocks about 98%. Anything above SPF 50 does not block any more UV rays as no product can totally block out 100%. So if you have been buying high-priced SPF 100, you should be aware that you aren’t really getting better protection.
The next thing to understand about sunscreen is that it takes time for it to be effective. Most moms probably slap some sunscreen on their kids right before they head outside – but it can take up to 30 minutes for sunscreen to become effective. This is why it’s important to apply sunscreen early in the day if you’ll be outside later and to keep applying it while you are outside. If your sunscreen is going to wear off in five minutes and you are just now reapplying, you could have a window of up to 25 minutes without protection.Vitamin D and Supplements
Vitamin D is a nutrient found in sunlight, but it can help you increase your natural sun tolerance. It can be taken as a supplement for the best effect, but you can also get high doses of vitamin D from fish oil, mushrooms, beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese.
Other supplements that can help increase your tolerance for sunburns include zinc, magnesium, and an anti-oxidant called “astaxanthin”. All of these can be taken orally to help improve your immune system and make it harder for your skin to sunburn.
2. UV Bracelets
Recently, Netatmo developed a smart bracelet that connects to your mobile device and alerts you to the status of the sun’s UV index. It will notify you when you need to reapply your sunscreen and tell you when your eyes would benefit from sunglasses. There are also non-smart versions, like the Seafolly UV Indicator Band, which simply changes colors to alert you that you need to apply more sunscreen.
This may be a great way to monitor your children, especially if you are trying to entertain guests, cooking at the grill, or remember your own sunscreen. If you don’t wish to use bracelets, consider setting a timer on your phone for 15-25 minutes, and reapply sunscreen when it goes off.
3. Change Your Lifestyle
It’s not as cool as a smartphone connected bracelet, but by simply making a few changes to the way you live, you can avoid the worst sun exposure. For example, try to be indoors between the hours of 10 A.M. and 4 P.M. This is when UV rays are the strongest.
Choose clothing that covers your body, especially during the summer. There are many companies that create lightweight, breathable, UV-blocking clothing that is comfortable to wear in hot weather. A broad-brimmed sun hat will protect your neck and ears, two places that are commonly forgotten when applying sunscreen
And of course, you should never enter a tanning bed, not even for a few moments to get a “base tan”. Many people think that this action will protect them from burning, but that is not the case. Even if science didn’t disprove this notion, the risks of tanning beds, which are nothing more than concentrated UV light, are much more dangerous than the risk of a sunburn.
4. Gradually Increase Exposure
If you plan to be outdoors for a weekend camping trip, on the water for some fishing or hanging out at a ball game that will take several hours, it would be a good idea to work your way up to the sun time that you’ll be experiencing. Simply exposing your skin to an entire day of unavoidable sun is sure to lead to a burn.
Spend 15 minutes or so at a time getting some sun and slowly work your way up to half an hour, an hour, and then several hours. This will give your skin time to adjust and build up your sun exposure tolerance.
5. Use Coconut Oil
Coconut oil has a natural SPF around 4, which blocks about 75% of UV rays. If you will be mostly in the shade, or it is an overcast day, you can still get sunburned. But a smaller SPF may be all you need to help you avoid the burn. Coconut oil is appealing because it’s totally natural, without chemical ingredients.
Coconut oil is a great choice for protecting your scalp if you don’t wish to wear a hat. While sunscreens can make your hair greasy, smelly, and can damage colored hair, coconut oil makes hair shiny and soft while protecting the delicate scalp.
6. Clean Up Your Health
Sunburns are actually an immune system response to a toxic overdose of UV light. By improving your health and strengthening your immune system, you can build a natural tolerance to sunburns. Try getting rid of processed foods, and eating more “healthy fats” like fish oil, as well as more dark green plants. This won’t totally reduce your risk of sunburn, but it can help you experience less risk overall.
There are other ways to naturally improve your immune health which include: quitting smoking, getting regular exercise, getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy blood pressure level, and keeping up with your regular healthcare checkups and vaccinations.
7. Don’t Skip in the Winter
Believe it or not, sunburns are not limited to warm weather. The snow has incredible reflective properties that can cause major sunburns in the winter if you are out enjoying the fresh air. Be sure that you use sunscreen, keep your immune system strong, and keep taking your vitamin D supplement even during the winter. As a bonus, vitamin D can help prevent the winter blues that so many of us experience due to the cold, darker weather.
8. Pay Attention to Medications
There are some medications that can cause a person to be more sensitive to UV light than they normally would be. The word you need to watch out for is “photosensitivity”. If it comes up on the list of possible side effects for a medication, you should take extra care to stay out of the sun during the main daylight hours, and to cover your skin as much as you can.
Medications that can cause photosensitivity include diuretics and St. John’s Wort. If you aren’t sure if your medication could cause this, and you’ve been experiencing a lot of sunburns lately, ask a pharmacist or your doctor if it’s a possibility.
If you have taken every step you can to prevent sunburns, you should be able to confidently enjoy the sun without worry. However, there is still always a chance that you could suffer a slight sunburn – no one is perfect, after all. In those cases, here are a few ways to treat the symptoms of a sunburn that you need to know:
- First, get out of the sun the moment you begin to feel ill. This includes a headache, a feeling of nausea or dizziness, or a feeling of being too hot.
- Cover up any exposed skin right away, and apply more sunscreen. This will stop any more damage from occurring.
- A medication like aspirin or ibuprofen can help with the pain and inflammation that you may experience. Cold compresses and cool baths are other choices.
- Aloe vera gels and lotions can help soothe your skin.
- It’s very important to stay hydrated when sunburned, to help your skin heal faster.
- If you experience blisters or extreme internal symptoms, you should see a doctor, who may prescribe steroids in serious cases of sun poisoning. They may also give you IV fluids to rehydrate the body.
Be sure that you stay out of the sun when you are sunburned so that you don’t exacerbate the problem. Skin that is newly healed from a burn is more apt to burn again, so it’s a good idea to take extra care with your skin when you do venture out again.
You Can Enjoy the Sun
While sunburns and tanning are not healthy for us in the long run, it is important to get a moderate amount of sunlight when you can. Sunlight can help our bodies naturally produce Vitamin D, and has been shown to boost emotional and mental health. No one should avoid the sun altogether.That is another reason, and perhaps the most important reason, why you should take steps to protect yourself from UV exposure. By covering your skin properly, being smart about when you get sun exposure, and following the rest of these tips, you can enjoy the natural benefits of sunshine, without the anxiety.
That is another reason, and perhaps the most important reason, why you should take steps to protect yourself from UV exposure. By covering your skin properly, being smart about when you get sun exposure, and following the rest of these tips, you can enjoy the natural benefits of sunshine, without the anxiety.
image courtesy of aol.com