You’ve heard the warnings your whole life to always wear sunscreen, but do you actually heed them? 47% of Americans never wear sunscreen, and only 10% percent of adults in the U.S. wear it every day. That small group has the right idea, but is it truly necessary to protect ourselves year-round?
Even though the sun is beautiful and essential to life on earth, the ultraviolet rays it emits are a type of ionizing radiation-- meaning they contain high levels of radiation, enough to ionize (or destroy electrons inside of) atoms. This process is damaging to the DNA cells which can ultimately cause skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or the more serious skin cancer, melanoma. There are various ways to protect your skin and stop these harmful rays from damaging your cells.
Sunblock may be the best way to protect your skin. It literally blocks UV rays from burning and penetrating the skin. The typically thick cream acts as a complete shield for your skin. Apply sunblock to all exposed areas of your body before every outing.
Different from sunblock, sunscreen works more as a cosmetic product, though it is still a vital protectant. Sunscreen absorbs the rays from the sun and shields the skin from the radiation that causes wrinkles and discoloration.
When the sun is beaming, you probably don’t want to wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants. Nonetheless, it may protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Not to worry however-- there is special protective gear that reflects the sun's rays (and some of its heat) that you can wear even on warm days.
We all love to play in the sun, but let’s not get carried away. Avoid staying out in the sun for too long. If you know you will be exposed to the sun for multiple hours, be sure to prepare yourself with block, screen, and/or protective clothing. Even with the preparations, avoid prolonged outings in direct sunlight if you can.
Despite popular belief, sun protection is a year-round necessity. There is never a moment in which the sun is not emitting its UV rays and radiation. Even when it’s cloudy outside or during cold seasons, the sun is still out and as long as the sun shines, you are at risk of sun damage and sunburn. True, the risk is much higher on clear days and during spring and summer months because there is less interference between the rays and your skin. Nonetheless, the radiation still reaches down and affects us. Therefore, anytime you go out during the day, use an appropriate protectant.