The Sun-Essential to Our Planet-Not So Great for Skin
Sunshine is like some husbands: You can’t live with it and you can’t live without it
Ladies of a bygone era, dressed in hoop skirts, bonnets and gloves knew a thing or two about remaining years younger. Staying out of the sun and keeping skin flawless was the mark of gentility and status in the 19th century.
If that style was not replaced by the sun-worshiping 20th century, a few cosmetic surgeons and aestheticians would be crying for clients today. Instead, we are all looking for the magic elixir; in skin creams, lasers, chemical peels and fillers.
Staying out of the sun is not easy. After all, it does feel good, especially after long, cold, and brutish winters. Vacationing on a far-flung beach, or on a ski slope does caress your entire being. However, like every feel-good situation, there is a price to pay. That price is wrinkles and uneven skin tone.
I was very lucky many years ago, when I was getting regular skin peels from an aesthetician, that I headed the advice to apply sunscreen in all weather conditions: Snow clouds rain or hale. In those days, when I lived in Pennsylvania, a section of the frozen tundra, my sunscreen was a tame 30 SPF.
Now, in our Puerto Rican paradise, it is 100 SPF, a hat and at times a special sun-reflecting umbrella. Days go past before I remember that in my backyard is the most highly rated urban beach in the United States, Isla Verde Beach.
What exactly does the SPF in sunscreens mean? It is not a magical formula after all. SPF is an acronym for Sun Protection Factor. Perhaps someone will write an acronym dictionary and help us out.
If like me, you really did not get factoring in math, SPF pertains to how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet B rays, which cause redness and some of the less dangerous skin cancers. If you get burned after twenty minutes of sun, an SPF of twenty will suffice. If you have had intense sunburns, aim for a higher SPF. According to Consumer Reports, Coppertone makes the best sunscreen. I have used other brands and have gotten decent protection. Often, a national pharmaceutical chain like CVS or Walgreens will have a cheaper knock-off of a more expensive brand. The choice is up to you and your wallet.
Melanoma, the intensely deadly skin cancer, often occurs after a personal history of blistering sunburns. That is the reason that bad sunburns in one’s youth are a melanoma risk. If you fit this description, I advise you to see a dermatologist annually.
Besides the UVB rays, the sun also gives us UVA rays. These reach the skin’s deeper layers, damaging collagen and elastic tissues. Too much youthful fun in the sun will have you calling 1-911 facelift.
Tanned skin is a sign of damaged skin so don’t let it fool you. Although it looks “healthy,” it is anything but. The sun’s UVA rays change the skin’s genetic code and may also trigger deadly skin cancer, often years after exposure. Tanning beds are loaded with UVA rays. When your teenager wants money for the tanning bed, just say “No!” They may thank you long after you are gone—or maybe not.
A mistake we all make with sunscreens is not applying it at regular intervals. Most people remember to reapply every 3 or 4 hours. It should be applied every 2 hours. Also, slather it on. Be generous with the sunscreen and your skin will be generous with you. A teaspoon will not do. Think in terms of the tablespoon that your grandmother never had to measure. Too much sun is a severe risk; too much sunscreen is not. After all, a few minutes in the sun provides all the Vitamin D you need. Or, you can reward your bones with a giant bottle of Vitamin D. D3 is the now vitamin for bones, along with Calcium and Magnesium.